What is Cupping?

Cupping during Acupuncture treatmentCupping is a technique used by acupuncture physicians where a glass cup is heated inside and then quickly placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created and then draws and sucks up the skin. To the patient it literally feels like a gentle vacuum cleaner is sucking up the skin. There is also a mechanical hand held cupping system and the traditional cups used to be made from bamboo.

Other cultures including the ancient Greeks and Egyptians have used cupping and it has also remained in use in the Eastern European countries for many centuries.

The basic reason for the use of cupping in traditional Chinese medicine is to improve circulation of both energy (qi) and blood. It can also improve lymph circulation.

Chinese medical theory has the thought that any injury will result in Blood Stagnation. This term is precisely as the term implies, the blood is stagnated and blocked at specific areas. For example, an infraspinatous tear in the shoulder will as part of its natural healing process; restrict the range of movement of the shoulder to prevent further tearing. Common sense will tell you that if you don’t move a joint around, there is less blood circulating there. It’s a two edged sword. We don’t want to move the shoulder around so as to prevent more injury but at the same time, this hinders proper blood circulation to supply nutrients to actually repair the shoulder. This is where cupping is used. It is also used to confirm that the underlying condition needs to have the blood stasis treated. If for example, after the cupping has been applied, there are large almost black to purple circular marks left and they last up to a week, this confirms the area has deep seated Blood Stagnation.

The acupuncture physician would then use additional acupuncture points specific to addressing Blood Stasis and helps promote accelerated injury recovery.

Cupping is also used for other conditions

  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Menstrual pain
  • Fertility issues
  • Muscle tension and spasm
  • Colds and flu
  • Skin disorders

Many patients who come to The Acupuncture Clinic opt to have their back cupped once a month or each 6 weeks as a preventative for back tension and stress reduction.


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About Heiko Lade

Hi, I'm Heiko Lade - qualified acupuncturist at The Acupuncture Clinic in Hastings, New Zealand. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation and treatment, please contact me.

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