Cupping involves creating suction on the skin to increase blood flow and ease pain and inflammation.

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How does cupping work?

Vacuum pressure is created in the cup either by using fire to remove oxygen from a glass cup before placing it on the skin or squeezing the air out of a silicone cup after it is placed on the skin. Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue

What does cupping treat?

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains. Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

What does the research show?

A 2012 review of 135 studies found that cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:

What should I expect during treatment?

During a cupping treatment, a cup is placed on the skin and then heated or suctioned onto the skin. The fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed with the open side directly on your skin. When the cup is placed on your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle upward into the cup. Your skin may turn red as the blood vessels respond to the change in pressure. Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus more traditional heat methods.

Are there side effects?

There aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. The side effects you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after. The most common side effect is development of a hematoma (bruising) on the skin, due to the suction. Any mild bruising or other marks usually go away within 10 days of the session.

When is cupping contraindicated?

Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for children under 4 years old, or for seniors with fragile skin. Don’t use cupping if you use blood-thinning medication. Also avoid cupping directly on areas where you have a sunburn, a rash, an open wound, a skin ulcer, or a fresh tattoo.