Gwyneth Paltrow Cupping
“You want to put what on my back?” asks one of my patients interested, but confused. “A cup, I’m going to suction a glass cup to your skin.”

Cupping is not a new concept. Yet again it’s something the Chinese developed thousands of years ago, but the western world is just starting to become acquainted with it. We’ve seen it on celebrities and athletes. They show up at events with round purple marks on their back as if an octopus has attacked them, but really it’s from cupping.

What Is Cupping?

Cupping with Flame

Traditional cupping involves taking a glass cup (made specifically for this type of treatment), placing a flaming cotton ball in the cup to draw out the oxygen and then quickly placing it on the skin. The lack of oxygen causes the cup to suction onto the skin and the skin is drawn up into the cup. There are more modern types of cups made of plastic or silicon that do not require the fire and alcohol, but are less commonly used and obviously way less fun.

Why Do We Use Cupping?

The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory is that it helps to draw toxins out of the body. The darker the mark it leaves the more toxins and stagnation are said to be in the body. Depending on the condition being treated the cups may be left in place or moved around on the skin, which is also referred to as “moving cupping”. I personally like to use moving cupping to release the fascia surrounding the muscle and connective tissue, as this type of treatment relates more to injuries.

Swimmer with Cupping

Does Cupping Hurt?

In general NO, it does not hurt nor should it hurt. Most people actually think it feels really good. Think of it as a reverse massage. If it does hurt, the suction may be too strong and the practitioner can easily adjust it.  Your practitioner will communicate with you to make sure you are comfortable. I always ask patients if they are going to be wearing clothing that will expose the cupping area because it’s possible that the cups may leave a mark. It may be anything from a light pink to a dark purple. These marks are not harmful and usually disappear in 3-7 days.

So if you’ve ever thought about getting cupping or if this is a brand new concept to you, give it a try. You may just discover a whole new type of treatment you enjoy. Plus, if you really don’t like needles it’s another way you can use your extended health benefits towards acupuncture.