Cupping therapy is the application of local negative pneumatic pressure to various parts of the body using glass, bamboo, ceramic, or silicone cups. It is used to treat a variety of of ailments, from musculoskeletal disorders to the common cold. The primary mechanism of cupping therapy is the application of the suction which draws old, stagnant blood and lymph out of the deeper tissues and to the surface where it can then be more easily dispersed by normal processes, allowing fresh, oxygenated blood and clean lymphatic fluid to now occupy that space.
Cupping therapy has been practiced around the world for 3000 years and in many different cultures. While most popularly associated with Traditional Chinese Medicine, it also shows up in traditional Iranian medicine. The ancient Egyptians described the practice of cupping in the Ebers Papyrus (c. 1500 B.C.) and also mentioned its use by Saharan peoples. Hippocrates 9C. 400 B.C.) used cupping for internal disease and orthopedic problems in ancient Greece. Its also mentioned in Maimonides’ book on health and was widely practiced in the Eastern European Jewish communities. Even the founder of Islam, Muhammed, was a well know fan of cupping!
The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. What about the cupping marks we’ve seen on the likes of Michael Phelps, Demarcus Ware, and Gwyneth Paltrow? Although it looks like a bruise, the cupping mark is not actually a bruise. The cupping mark is just stagnant blood being pulled to the surface tissues of the body. They aren’t typically tender to the touch like a bruise, and they fade on their own, usually over the course of a few days. They’re also a fabulous conversation starter!