Vacuum cuppingWhat is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is an ancient Chinese method of causing local congestion.  A partial vacuum is created in cups placed on the skin either by means of heat or suction.  This draws up the underlying tissues.  When the cup is left in place on the skin for a few minutes, blood stasis is formed and localized healing takes place.

Cupping therapy has been further developed as a means to open the ‘Meridians’ of the body.  Meridians are the conduits in the body through which energy flows to every part of the body and through every organ and tissue.  There are five meridians on the back that, when opened, allow invigorating energy to travel the whole length of the body.  It has been found that cupping is probably the best way of opening those meridians.

Cupping is great for pain; particularly pain related to lack of blood flow and stagnation that is a cold and damp in nature.  Cupping can be done to help breathing issues like asthma or digestion issues.  Cupping is unique in that it is mostly a reducing therapy or one that takes away.  Whereas acupuncture puts something into the body (although energetically it can pull out), cupping literally sucks pathogens out of the body.

Cupping has also been found to affect the body up to four inches into the tissues, causing tissues to release toxins, activate the lymphatic system, clear colon blockages, help activate and clear the veins, arteries and capillaries, activate the skin, clear stretch marks and improve varicose veins.

Cupping is the best deep tissue massage available. Cupping, the technique, is very useful and very safe.

A glass cup has a lit torch held inside it for a few seconds.  This is just enough to warm the air, which creates a vacuum effect.  The cup is then quickly plopped down on the skin.  A small area of skin is sucked up into the cup and that’s what holds it to the skin surface.  The hotter the air, the stronger the vacuum and suction feeling. If it feels too tight at this point, either the skin wasn’t oiled enough or the vacuum is just a tad too strong.  The cup can be easily removed and reapplied if it’s really uncomfortable.


Sometimes large cups are applied and then slide back and forth on the body surface.  This feels like a massage, as the cup sucks up a bit of the skin and by moving the cup, it feel like a deep muscle push done with the heel of the hand.  Smaller cups can also be applied over areas where chi is blocked or where you want to increase circulation.

Cups are left in place for up to a half hour approximately.  To remove them, you just break the seal by pressing down at the edge of them with a finger.  The marks left behind are a combination of how strong the vacuum of the cups was and what impurities/toxins were being removed.  Most often the circles left behind are reddish-brown but they can also be yellowish or even a bit more blue like a traditional bruise.  These fade anywhere from a day to over a week or two depending on how long the cups were on you and what your own skin healing is like.

To Remove the Yang

Unlike moxibustion that increases the Yang, cupping removes the Yang.  Like moxibustion, cupping can be performed along with acupuncture.  Both needles and cupping tend to remove the Yang.

First, oil is applied to the skin, usually on the back, to help maintain the suction and to allow the cups to be slid around on the back snugly.  The practitioner heats the air inside the cup or uses mechanical suction.  He puts the cup on specific acupuncture meridians or at other spots on the body.  Sometimes, incisions are made to draw out blood.

If acupuncture needles are used in conjunction with the cups, the needle may be applied at the acupuncture point, and the suction cup may be placed over it to enhance the effect.

Nowadays, modern machine suction pumps are commonly used instead of fire to create the suction effect. Generally, there is no discomfort since the suction isn’t very strong, but it does draw the blood to the surface leaving a mark like a bruise mark or hickey.  The mark generally disappears within a few days.