Cupping at
The Spine & Health Center of New Jersey

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction may facilitate healing with blood flow. Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue. People use cupping to complement their care for a host of issues and conditions.

What are the Different Types of Cupping?

Cupping was originally performed using animal horns. Later, the “cups” were made from bamboo and then ceramic. The suction was primarily created through the use of heat. The cups were originally heated with fire and then applied to the skin. As they cooled, the cups drew the skin inside. Modern cupping is often performed using glass cups that are rounded like balls and open on one end.

There are two main categories of cupping performed today:

  • Dry cupping is a suction-only method.
  • Wet cupping may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding.

Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used.

What Should I Expect During a Cupping Treatment?

During a cupping treatment, a cup is placed on the skin and then heated or suctioned onto the skin. The cup is often heated with fire using alcohol, herbs, or paper that’s placed directly into the cup. The fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed with the open side directly on your skin.

Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus more traditional heat methods.

When the hot cup is placed on your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle upward into the cup. Your skin may turn red as the blood vessels respond to the change in pressure.

With dry cupping, the cup is set in place for a set time, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. With wet cupping, cups are usually only in place for a few minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood.

These treatment protocols – over 500 specific moves – are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. ART is not a cookie-cutter approach.

Side Effects

There aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. The side effects you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after. You may feel lightheaded or dizzy during your treatment. You may also experience sweating or nausea. After treatment, the skin around the rim of the cup may become irritated and marked in a circular pattern. You may also have pain at incision sites or feel lightheaded or dizzy shortly after your session. 

Risks include:

Your practitioner should wear an apron, disposable gloves, and goggles or other eye protection. They should also use clean equipment and have regular vaccines to ensure protection against certain diseases, like hepatitis. Always research practitioners thoroughly to protect your own safety. If you experience any of these issues, consult your practitioner. They may offer remedies or steps you can take before your session in order to avoid any discomfort.

Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for everyone. Extra caution should be taken for the following groups:

  • Children. Children under 4 years old shouldn’t receive cupping therapy. Older children should only be treated for very short periods.
  • Seniors. Our skin becomes more fragile as we age. Any medication you may be taking might have an effect as well.
  • Pregnant people. Avoid cupping the abdomen and lower back.
  • Those who are currently menstruating.

Don’t use cupping if you use blood-thinning medication. Also avoid cupping if you have:

  • a sunburn
  • a wound
  • a skin ulcer
  • experienced recent trauma
  • an internal organ disorder

What conditions can cupping treat?

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains.

Since the cups can also be applied tomajor acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

2012 review of studies suggests cupping therapy’s healing power may be more than just a placebo effect. The researchers found that cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:

  • Shingles
  • Facial Paralysis
  • Cough and Dyspnea
  • Acne
  • Lumbar Disc Herniation
  • Cervical Spondylosis

Are you suffering from
any of these conditions?

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