BY: DR. LISA J. LUNDY
While most people equate Chinese Medicine with acupuncture needles, there are many additional therapies that are used to support the body to heal and restore balance. One of the oldest and more widespread therapies is cupping. Cupping has been used to treat illness for over 2500 years in most Asian and Middle Eastern cultures. Many families are raised with cupping therapy being as common to them, as asprin is to our culture. It wasn’t until 2005 when Gwenyth Paltrow appeared with the tell tale suction marks on her back, that cupping became well known. The benefits of the therapy however, have been around for centuries
Acupuncture cupping works by placing small heated cups, usually made of glass, on various acupressure points of the body.
Normally, the acupuncturist will wave a burning cotton ball soaked in alcohol inside the cup to quickly create a vacuum. The warm cups are placed in specific areas, creating negative pressure, which is used to draw out toxins and other fluids through the skin. Other methods of cupping use plastic cups that have a suction pump on them and are adjusted as needed for the appropriate pressure. Sometimes several cups are placed over specific acupuncture points on the body and will remain in one place for 5- 10 minutes. Other techniques include “moving cupping” which requires the application of oils and then the cups are used to massage the back. The treatment does not hurt; it feels like and inside out and backwards massage and after the treatment people often report that they feel looser, less pain, less pressure and feel warm from the increased circulation. It is not uncommon for the suction cups to leave a mark on the skin and the intensity and duration of this “bruised or reddish” skin will vary for each person and for each condition. In fact, the amount and length of discolouration is often used as a diagnostic tool in Chinese Medicine to indicate the intensity of the problem.
The purpose of cupping is to draw out toxins by stimulating the blood and lymphatic system, remove stagnation by stimulating and improving circulation, and to stimulate the peripheral nervous system. The result of cupping is that it is very effective in reducing pain and improving energy.
Cupping therapy is very helpful for the treatment of pain (muscle tension, arthritis, stiffness and low back pain as well as headaches and migraines), digestive disorders (constipation, IBS, abdominal tension), menstrual disorders (cramps), respiratory problems (cough, asthma, allergies), circulatory disorders (high blood pressure, cellulite) as well as being very beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety and helps to calm hyperactive behaviour in both adults and children. It is a great therapy to consider for children or teenagers because it is not invasive, it feels great and has immediate effect.
Cupping therapy can be used on its own, with Tui Na (massage) and/or with acupuncture therapy. It is a very old therapy that has easily and effectively promoted the healing of many conditions. The next time you feel an ache or pain and consider exploring Chinese Medicine, remember that cupping is one of the options that exist and may just be the one that helps.