Cupping therapy is an ancient method of treatment that has been used in the treatment of a broad range of conditions. There are many types of cupping therapy; however, dry and wet cupping are the two main types. Dry cupping pulls the skin into the cup without scarifications, while in wet cupping the skin is lacerated so that blood is drawn into the cup.
Cupping has been a treatment for centuries, and had been used by various culture and societies, is a simple application of quick, vigorous, rhythmical strokes to stimulate muscles and is particularly helpful in the treatment of aches and pains associated with various diseases. Thus, cupping carries the potential to enhance the quality of life. Each cupping session takes about 20 to 60 min, the therapist allocates specific points or areas for cupping and disinfects the area. A cup with a suitable size is placed on the selected site and the therapist suck the air inside the cup by flame, electrical or manual suction.
Technique of cupping might be responsible for certain changes at the level of body cells, tissues or organs. Specific interventions could enhance or suppress body hormones, or it might stimulate or modulate immunity, or it may get rid of harmful substances from the body, and eventually it might ease the pain.
1. Pain Relief
Pain relief is one of the main reasons people use cupping. An analysis of multiple clinical trials published in Evidence-BasedComplimentary and Alternative Medicine showed that compared to traditional treatments, cupping offered positive effects for relieving cancer pain compared to analgesics and anti-cancer drugs.
Cupping targets soft tissue with pressure applied to pain points and areas of swelling. This helps to increase blood flow and give the tissues important nutrients and oxygen. It’s believed to help release tissues deep within the body, relax tense muscles and ease stiffness that’s often associated with neck and back pain, migraines and rheumatism. Practitioners use pressure along with heat and suctioning (and sometimes needles), near the site of the injury. This allows energy to flow along the meridians, or channels, which pass through the injury.
2. Relieve Cold, Cough and Allergy Symptoms
Cupping can help to stimulate the lungs (as well as other vital organs) to help clear out phlegm. Excess phlegm in the lungs triggers coughing to help bring it out of the body. The practice of cupping can help speed the process to relieve one of nasty cold, cough and allergy symptoms. It also helps boost immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
3. Promotes Relaxation
In today’s chaotic world, all of us can use a little time for relaxation. If we don’t take time to relax, the constant stress can lead to a host of health conditions, including mental issues like anxiety and depression. Similar to receiving a deep tissue massage which offers wonderful, relaxing relief, cupping is soothing as it helps to lift the pressure from tense muscles.
The act of simply lying still and allowing a practitioner to apply the therapy has positive effects on well-being, and believed to be another factor in why cupping is often so effective. After the cups are placed on the skin and suctioned, they generally remain for as long as 20 minutes, which basically forces one to be still and silent, putting them into a more relaxed state as it sedates the central nervous system.
Poor circulation can lead to buildup of toxins inside of the body’s tissues. This buildup can be the root cause of many different health conditions. Cupping helps to improve stagnation, while the blood rushing to the area that’s being treated carries away toxins. Along with those toxins, it helps to clear dead cells and other debris. All of these elements are then expelled naturally. That’s why drinking lots of water after a cupping session is a good idea for flushing away those impurities and promoting better health.
5. Inducing Inflammation to Heal Injuries Faster
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism, which helps kick things into action to help heal illness and injury. If you suffer from a muscular injury, the first thing you probably do is rush to get an ice pack, but when it’s allowed to become inflamed, that actually helps to flood the injured muscle with blood, along with nutrients, platelets, white blood cells and fibroblasts to aid in healing. Cupping therapy works much the same way by drawing blood to the affected area so that new blood vessels can be created. It helps to heal knots and adhesions, which is why so many athletes have been turning to this therapy. It helps their body to recover faster from intense workout sessions.
6. Improve Skin Conditions
Cupping has been used to help with a host of skin conditions, including eliminating acne and eczema, reducing skin inflammation, lessening herpes breakouts and even diminishing cellulite. In the case of eczema, suction is applied on points on the body, such as the top end of the spinal cord, below the knee, or above the ankle. It’s used to treat acne by cupping the affected area and even nicking the skin in order to remove the breakout.
As part of a cellulite treatment, cupping is done after oil is applied to the skin. The cups are then suctioned and moved around to bring heat to the area, along with the skin-healing ingredients of the particular oil that’s used.
An analysis of studies published in PLOS One found that cupping may be equally or even more effective for treating acne as compared to antibiotics. The studies showed that the cure rate of cupping for improving acne was better than the use of prescription medications like tetracycline.
Cupping therapy is based on the belief that disease results when the positive energy that flows through the meridians of the body is blocked. Removing that congestion than induces the body to heal itself. Cupping draws blood to the affected area, energizing skin tissues. That blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients, while the lymphatic system produces antibodies that are need for healing. The blood flow also works to detoxify, as stated earlier, removing pathogens that cause skin conditions.
7. Relieving Digestive Disorders
Cupping is also becoming a popular practice for relieving symptoms of digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. It’s believed to work partly because of the stress-relieving effects of cupping, which has been strongly linked to healthier digestion.
Stress, tension and anxiety are all communicated to organs throughout the body, including digestive processes. When that happens, things start to get congested, and as a result, you feel bloated and constipated. Cupping releases the stagnation, helping to get things moving along, and relaxing you so that systems function normally again.
The therapy has been found to be effective for water retention, diarrhea, stomach cramps, gastritis, loss of appetite and a host of gastrointestinal diseases.
Cupping has been found to offer anti-aging effects like fighting wrinkles. It brings more nutrients to the skin, which helps give it a glowing, younger appearance. In addition, products that are used after the treatment, such as lotions, essential oils and such, are absorbed better, and therefore, more effective.
The lifting motion that comes with suctioning helps to reduce visible fine lines and wrinkles. It can even lessen the appearance of scars that are the result of injury or acne. The connecting tissues underneath facial skin are stimulated, helping to reduce smile and laugh lines, and, if you’re suffering from puffiness, it can help drain fluid in the lymph glands that result in reduced edema.
The massaging movements alone are known to help relax tense facial muscles, which results in younger, and even softer looking skin. Whether your skin is dry or oily, cupping can offer these outstanding aesthetic benefits. And, it’s all natural – no knives or lasers necessary.
9. Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that can interfere with hand strength and sensation, and even result in a decrease in hand function. It’s said to affect some 4 to 10 million Americans, with females three times more likely to suffer from it than males.
The condition disables a key nerve which results in symptoms that can range from mild numbness felt occasionally to hand weakness or even the loss of feeling and total loss of hand function.
The good news is that you may be able to find relief through cupping. A study out of Germany, published in The Journal of Pain showed that the technique was effective for providing temporary relief of pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. Just a single session was able to significantly ease pain and symptoms for a week, according to the researchers.
The study authors noted three possible explanations for the positive therapeutic effects, including that the therapy may be providing a powerful placebo effect, cupping may offer antinociceptive effects, or the local bloodletting caused by cupping may have altered tissue perfusion and metabolism to affect medial nerve function.
There is converging evidence that cupping can induce comfort and relaxation on a systemic level and the resulting increase in endogenous opioid production in the brain leads to improved pain control. Other researchers proposed that the main action of cupping therapy is to enhance the circulation of blood and to remove toxins and waste from the body. That could be achieved through improving microcirculation, promoting capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerating granulation and angiogenesis in the regional tissues, thus helping normalize the patient’s functional state and progressive muscle relaxation. Cupping also removes noxious materials from skin microcirculation and interstitial compartment which benefit the patient. Cupping may be an effective method of reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) in men and consequently may have a preventive effect against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Cupping is known to significantly decrease in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein LDL/high density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio. Cupping therapy can significantly lower the number of lymphocytes in the local blood related to the affected area with an increase in the number of neutrophils, which is one of the antiviral mechanisms that reduces the pain scores.
In wet cupping loss of blood along with vasodilation tends to increase the parasympathetic activity and relaxes the body muscles which benefit the patient and could also be associated with the after effects of cupping. Furthermore, the loss of blood is thought to increase the quality of the remaining blood that improves pain symptoms. It has also been found that cupping increases red blood cells RBCs. It has been claimed that cupping therapy tends to drain excess fluids and toxins, loosen adhesions and revitalize connective tissue, increase blood flow to skin and muscles, stimulate the peripheral nervous system, reduce pain, controls high blood pressure and modulates the immune system. Some researchers believe that the build-up of toxins is the main reason for illness development. In the cupped region, blood vessels are dilated by the action of certain vasodilators such as adenosine, noradrenaline and histamine. Consequently, there is an increase in the circulation of blood to the ill area. This allows the immediate elimination of trapped toxins in the tissues, and, hence, the patient feels better. Cupping has been found to improve subcutaneous blood flow and to stimulate the autonomic nervous system. Like injuries to the skin due to the incisions, stimulation of the skin causes several autonomic, hormonal, and immune reactions attributed to the sympathetic and parasympathetic efferent nerves to the somatovisceral reflexes related to the organs. Cupping is reported to restore sympathovagal balance and might be cardio-protective by stimulating the peripheral sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Cupping seems to play a role in the activation of complement system as well as modulation of cellular part of immune system. There is also a significant reduction in blood sugar in diabetic patients after cupping. Overall, cupping is reported to effect changes in the biomechanical properties of the skin, increase immediate pain thresholds in patients with neck pain and in a healthy subject as well, reduce significantly peripheral and local P substance and reduce the inflammation.
Cupping therapy is reported to treat a variety of diseases due to the effects of multiple types of stimulation. There is converging evidence that cupping therapy appears to be effective for various medical conditions, in particular herpes zoster and associated pain and acne, facial paralysis, and cervical spondylosis. Cupping therapy is often used for lowering blood pressure and prevents the development of cardio vascular diseases CVDs in healthy people. Wet cupping in conjunction with conventional treatment is reported to effectively treat oral and genital ulceration in patient with Behçet’s disease. There is growing evidence that wet cupping is effective in musculoskeletal pain, nonspecific low back pain, neck pain, fibromyalgia and other painful conditions. Michalsen et al. (2009) concluded that cupping therapy may be effective in alleviating the pain and other symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Cupping therapy is also found to be effective in headache and migraine. Cupping therapy is effective for reducing systolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients for up to 4 weeks without any serious side effects. Evidently, cupping therapy is effective in the treatment of cellulitis. Cupping therapy has been used with various level of evidence (I to V) in many conditions such as cough, asthma, acne, common cold, urticaria, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, soft tissue injury, arthritis and neuro-dermatitis.