Cupping is a therapeutic technique used in traditional Chinese medicine that gained attention during last summer’s Rio Olympics when some athletes – most notably swimmer Michael Phelps – were spotted with cup marks on their backs and shoulders.
In general, cupping involves placing small jars on the skin and releasing the air to create a partial vacuum inside of the cup. This gently pulls the skin and superficial muscle layer into the cup, which is then left on that spot for about 10 minutes. The practitioner may apply oil so the cups glide more easily across the treatment area. Skin discoloration resembling a bruise may occur, but the marks typically fade within two to four days.
A tenet of Chinese medicine is that where there is pain there is no flow, and where there is no flow there is pain. Cupping helps restore flow and stimulate muscles while reducing pain.
I use cupping in conjunction with acupuncture and Tui Na, a therapeutic form of massage.
It can be an effective treatment for muscle and joint pain, swelling, headaches, tension, high blood pressure, fatigue, insomnia, arthritis, digestion, asthma and lung congestion.
JoDee Chenaur is a licensed acupuncturist from the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing. She has a master’s of science in Oriental Medicine from the Phoenix Institute of Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture. For information, call 623-832-WELL (9355) or visit sunhealthwellbeing.org.
NOTE: This information should not be substituted for medical advice from your physician.
(Originally published Feb 23, 2017; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)