Today’s blog I will call Cupping Therapy Miramar. I will discuss the basics of this type of treatment, how it works, and the benefits of this ancient form of Alternative Medicine.

Cupping Therapy Miramar
Cupping Therapy Miramar

First of all, where does Cupping Therapy come from?

Cupping Therapy is used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has been used in China for thousands of years. At first, it was applied using sections of bamboo or cattle horns. To create pressure inside the horn or bamboo, these ancient “cups” were boiled in water, or fire was ignited to remove the air and create a suction effect before applying them to the skin. 

It is believed that Cupping Therapy was used in practice as early as 3000 BC. This alternative medicine method was well-practiced by Muslim scientists who elaborated and developed the technique further. Hippocrates (400 BC) used Cupping Therapy to treat internal diseases in ancient Greece. The Egyptians introduced cupping to the Greeks. Evidence shows that the Egyptians used Cupping Therapy (1550 BC) for fever, pain, menstruation, appetite problems, and general healing purposes.

Origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Origins of Traditional Chinese Medicine

In China, the earliest use of Cupping Therapy recorded is from the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.). Chinese books gave examples of using Cupping Therapy to treat snakebites, chronic cough, etc. Other Chinese books discussed the use of Cupping Therapy to treat pain, asthma, indigestion, and skin problems. 

As time passed, Cupping Therapy became more and more popular in the Western World. It became popular in the treatment of athletes. For example, in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a swimmer on the China team, Qun Wang, had these round marks on her back. And the international media became curious about the cupping marks in athletes like Wang. In the 2016 Olympics, Michael Phelps sported deep-purple bruise-like circles on his shoulders. This ancient Chinese healing practice experienced an Olympic moment.

Cupping Therapy for Olympic Athletes
Cupping Therapy for Olympic Athletes

So, how does Cupping Therapy work?

Cupping Therapy uses vacuum forces to lift the soft tissue and improve the flow of blood and other fluids. This enhances the body’s ability to remove waste and toxins from the body. So you may ask how? This is done through the lymphatic system. So, basically, the lymphatic system is your body’s filtering system. 

Furthermore, Cupping Therapy is widely used for patients with muscle tightness that may cause discomfort and/or pain. The suction of the “cups” helps to stretch tight muscles, which allows the muscles to relax and, therefore, decreases discomfort and pain.

Moreover, improving blood flow to the desired area or injured area with the “cups” lets the body know it needs to heal in that area. Therefore, the body sends specialized cells to get rid of damaged tissues and fibroblasts to help rebuild them. Also, the increased blood flow helps remove irritants from the damaged areas, which can help decrease pain and stiffness.

Cupping Therapy Miramar
Silicone Cupping Therapy Treatment

As my patients see me bring different types of “cups, ” many ask about the different types of Cupping Therapy. As previously stated, originally, hollowed-out horns and bamboo cups were used on acupuncture points. Later, glass cups were used with lighted alcohol cotton balls inserted into the center of the cup to heat it up to create suction in specific acupuncture points. This type of Cupping Therapy is known as Fire Cupping. Many clinics do not use fire cupping due to the many risks involved in using fire during treatment.

Stationary Cupping is the most common form of Cupping Therapy. Cups are placed in the desired location, and suction is created using a piston suction tube. The “cups” are left in the area for a specific time.

Cupping Therapy Miramar
Stationary Cupping Therapy for Shoulder Pain

In addition, there are specialized suction cups with magnetic heads. These “magnetic cups” cause a superficial electric current to that area. These “cups” are also placed on a specific body part for a certain amount of time to decrease discomfort.

Stationary Magnetic Cupping Therapy
Stationary Magnetic Cupping Therapy

The other type of Cupping Therapy is called Moving Cupping. The practitioner uses piston or silicone suction cups to create the suction. Then the cup is moved along the injured area to improve the blood flow into the surrounding tissues and provide light stretch to the muscle to help decrease muscle tension and discomfort. This is an excellent technique for tender, sensitive areas. It is often used for chronic muscle, tendon, tissue discomfort.

Moving Cupping Therapy after CrossFit Competition
Moving Cupping Therapy after CrossFit Competition

Furthermore, silicone cups can be used for Functional Cupping, another Cupping Therapy type. In Functional Cupping, the practitioner places pressurized cups on a tight area of the muscle and then performs active range of motion of that body part. This combination improves the muscle’s functional movement while decreasing muscle tightness and pain.

Another technique is called Wet or Blood Cupping. In this Cupping Therapy technique, the skin is punctured or cut to allow the blood to come out when suction cups are applied. It is a good technique for severe swelling from acute injury and also to assist in dropping blood pressure. It is not a common practice in the United States due to infection control issues and professional insurance regulations. 

So, another question I encounter frequently is: where do Oriental Medicine practitioners place these “cups”? 

Overall the same principles of Acupuncture are used in Cupping Therapy. The “cups” are placed on certain acupoints to elicit the specific effect of that point. We also have to assess the area of excessive muscle tension and related trigger points.

Cupping Therapy Miramar
Cupping Therapy Treatment

So you may wonder, is Cupping Therapy painful?

Most people describe Stationary Cupping as a lot of pressure. With Moving Cupping, you feel the pressure, the lift of the skin, and the tension provided by the movement of the “cups.” Patients report a relaxing effect afterward, like the feeling after a massage. 

Furthermore, what can Cupping Therapy treat?

Since ancient times, Cupping Therapy has been used to treat many ailments. It has primarily been used for pain and tightness, such as back, neck, knees, shoulder, arthritic pain, etc.

Furthermore, according to Chinese literature, Cupping Therapy has also been known to treat high blood pressure, migraines, varicose veins, abdominal issues, etc.

It has been shown that Cupping Therapy helps:

  • Chronic pain in the neck, back, shoulder, knee, etc. 
  • Musculoskeletal pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia, etc.
  • Digestive problems, such as bloating, gastric reflux, and constipation conditions
  • Decrease muscle tightness which results in pain reduction. 
  • Increase muscle relaxation by improving microcirculation and promoting cell repair. 
  • Promote the body’s healing process.
  • Assist the lymphatic system in draining excess fluids, waste, and toxins.
  • Improve comfort and relaxation on a systemic level.
  • Improve recovery of a common cold, cough, asthma, etc.
Cupping Therapy for Back Pain
Cupping Therapy for Back Pain

So, how does Cupping Therapy treat pain?

The suction of the “cups” initiates the healing crisis by improving blood flow, fluid movement in the area, and the body’s response to the healing process. It lifts, stretches, and elongates tightened tissues. Removes toxins irritating pain nerves. Provides increased tissue elasticity and muscle relaxation. All these effects of the treatment help to decrease discomfort and pain.

Cupping Therapy for Shoulder Pain
Cupping Therapy Treatment for Shoulder Pain

Patients ask another common question: what are those circles in the skin after Cupping Therapy

Some patients may have those circles; others may not. Purple/ red areas in the shape of the cup are called cupping marks (they are not bruises). They are caused by bringing the blood up to the skin’s surface to remove toxins from your body. If you get these marks, they may last from a couple of hours to 5-7 days. Mild tenderness at the cupping site may happen for the first day or two, similar to the tenderness after a deep tissue massage.

The darker the cupping marks, the more stagnant fluids (toxins, blood, and lymph) were dredged up during treatment. Removing these toxins allows fresh circulation (blood, fluid, nutrients) to go to the diseased parts and heal the body. And as the Chinese proverb states: “Where there is stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.”

Cupping Therapy Miramar
Cupping Therapy Marks

With Moving Cupping, you may see small red dots or redness in the skin caused by platelets and toxins coming up to the skin’s surface. Cupping Therapy is usually felt as deep pressure. If patients feel too much pressure, the suction level can be reduced, or the “cups” can be removed for immediate relief. 

Cupping Therapy for Neck and Back Tightness and Pain
Cupping Therapy for Neck and Back Tightness and Pain

To summarize this Cupping Therapy Miramar blog post that discusses the basic concepts of this alternative medicine method, 

Cupping Therapy uses specialized cups to promote the body’s healing ability and decrease discomfort and pain. The type of “cups” and the type of Cupping Therapy the patient receives is based on the patient’s complaints and the location of the problem, among other factors that will affect the outcome. Patients must find a practitioner who has received the appropriate training, education, and certification in Cupping Therapy.

Cupping Therapy is often used with other Oriental Medicine techniques available in my practice. At HomeopathyX, we perform a complete assessment to understand the root cause of the patient’s complaint(s). We use a client-centered, individualized approach to ensure that the patient has positive results. 

Thomas Chavie, AP, Dipl. OM, PT
Thomas Chavie, AP, Dipl. OM, PT

NCCAOM Certification
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