This article first appeared in mindbodygreen.com and is written by Jennifer Dubowsky
Celebrities like Gwenyth Paltrow, her husband Chris Martin, Jennifer Aniston, and Victoria Beckham are all fans of cupping. This ancient technique is becoming trendy, and while I’m not usually a follow-the-crowd kind of girl, I do appreciate good publicity for Chinese Medicine.
Cupping is an effective remedy commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the more people who know about it and appreciate the benefits, the better. The earliest written documentation of Chinese cupping dates back three thousand years, when it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Cupping is not exclusive to Chinese Medicine. Similar treatments have been used by ancient Egyptians, North American Indians, early Greeks, and in other Asian and European countries.
Cupping uses suction applied to glass, plastic or bamboo cups (they often look like glass jelly jars) to pull up the tissue in an affected area . The suction causes a negative pressure, and the underlying skin is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. You’ll usually feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup, and that often feels very good. Cups are left in place for 5-20 minutes, and sometimes the cups are moved around on your back in a gliding motion. Cupping relaxes your muscles, stimulates blood flow, lymph, and Qi to the affected area and throughout your body.
One important thing to know about cupping is that although it is an effective, safe technique, you will probably be bruised afterwards. The cups leave distinctive pink, red or purple circles or streaks where they are placed. The skin discoloration may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. Generally, the bruises don’t hurt, though occasionally they may be a little sore. I always recommend that my patients drink plenty of water and take an Epsom salts bath after a cupping treatment because the salts are anti-inflammatory and can help prevent or relieve soreness. Cupping can be repeated once the marks have cleared up.
Cupping is often combined with an acupuncture treatment, but can also be used alone. It’s wonderful for treating many conditions, including stress, pain relief, allergies, flu, colds, back pain, anxiety, muscle aches, red itchy skin conditions (cups are not placed on areas of the skin that are inflamed), and fevers. Cupping also enhances circulation and pull toxins from your body’s tissues.
To some people, this may sound like an unusual treatment, but once you try it, you’ll understand why cupping is winning fans among athletes, celebrities, and all the rest of us who want to remain active and feel great.
Jennifer Dubowsky is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in Chicago, Illinois, since 2002 and, published her first book, Adventures in Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbs, And Ancient Ideas For Today in 2013.