Cupping has been relatively unknown to the West until recently and has gained popularity and notoriety since the 2016 Rio Olympics when swimmer Michael Phelps was photographed with red circular bruises on his arms and body. The news media and press flooded its broadcast, prompting a global phenomenon. This therapeutic method has been popular in China and most parts of Asia for quite some time now. It has plenty of health benefits that can outweigh modern medicine without the side effects of conventional drugs or invasive surgery.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a form of alternative medicine that uses special cups that are placed onto patient’s skin for a few minutes in order to create suction. The suction creates a vacuum which causes the skin to rise. The skin will appear red as the blood vessels dilate. The cups are usually left in place 3-5 minutes prior to removal.
Cupping activates blood circulation in the affected area which helps relieve joint pain, ease muscle stiffness, and other exercise related fatigue. It detoxifies the body, causing tissues to release toxins, thus healing the body and restoring balance. The special cups can be made from glass, bamboo, silicone, or earthenware.
Effects of Cupping:
1. The pressure of cupping will produce partial blood stasis
2. Blood stasis will attract white blood cells to decompose the condensed red blood cells
3. The decomposition process will start a series of physiological activities
4. Anti-inflammatory, Repair and healing, and Pain-relieving
5. Benefits are not only partial but systemic
Cupping is a great way to relieve muscle tension and pain or acute sports injury since the pain relief is almost immediate and highly effective. It is non-invasive with the exception of a few bruises which should last no more than a few days to a week. In chronic injuries cupping should be administered 5-10 minutes in the affected area every 5 to 7 days to promote healing and reduce inflammation and pain.
Benefits of Cupping:
According to the International list of trained therapists (ICTA), the health benefits of cupping include:
Deep tissue stimulation
Promotes the flow of lymphatic fluid to stimulate immune system
Pulls blood to supply skin
Stretches muscle and connective tissue
Loosens scar tissue and adhesion
Stimulates the flow of Qi
Cupping is considered safe and effective but it’s important you find a well-qualified practitioner. There are different cupping techniques so consult a practitioner and see which method is suitable for you. Cupping should be avoided if the patient has a skin infection, inflammation, broken skin or ulcer. It is not recommended for pregnant women since not a lot of research has been done to deem it safe.
Aside from feeling pressure from the suction, there’s little discomfort from cupping. So yeah, if a world class athlete and Olympian attributes his health and wellbeing to this technique, I’d say those are favorable odds to try it out yourself!