I saw Michael Phelps getting some funny treatment during the Olympics. Is that called cupping?

Yes, he received cupping therapy.

What is cupping?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi is the free flowing energy around us and it also flows through our body. Disruption of qi can cause imbalances and stagnation in our bodies. Cupping is believed to help remove the stagnation and restore the free flow of qi. During cupping, suction cups of different sizes are attached to the body to remove stagnant blood. Cupping was also believed to have been used by the ancient Egyptians.

Are there different types of cupping?

Yes, there are two types of cupping: dry and wet.
-In dry or air cupping, the cups are applied to the body for three to twenty minutes depending on the person’s condition, to draw blood to the surface of the skin.
-In wet cupping, the therapist makes tiny incisions in the skin with a scalpel blade, after removing the cups, to draw out a tiny amount of blood.

What are the cups made of?

The cups can be made of glass, bamboo, silicon or earthenware.

How does cupping therapy work?

Cupping is believed to improve blood circulation, draw toxins to the surface and then remove them. In modern medical terms, cupping helps to loosen the fascia and stimulates blood flow to the area where the cups are applied. This promotes relaxation of the tissues and increased communication between individual cells. It simulates a deep tissue massage.

Which conditions can be treated with cupping?

In China, cupping is used to treat several disorders ranging from anxiety, depression, cough, asthma to hypertension, diabetes, anemia, insomnia, infertility, skin conditions, arthritis, pain and paralysis. It has also been used to treat shingles (herpes zoster), cervical spondylosis and acne.

Are there any overall health benefits of cupping therapy?

Cupping is believed to improve health overall by removing obstacles to the passage of energy/blood. It helps to relieve pain and relax the muscles.

Is cupping dangerous or life threatening?

No, cupping is not life- threatening and can be safe for healthy individuals when performed by trained therapists.

Does cupping have any side-effects?

The main side-effect of cupping is bruising as the cups draw blood to the surface of the skin. The bruises can be prominent in fair skinned individuals and can last up to a few days or few weeks. Successful cupping treatment is indicated by decrease in bruising with repeated cuppings. Other side-effects include skin infection and mild soreness at the site of cupping.

What precautions should I take during cupping?

Avoid cupping on a burn or an open wound or on inflammed skin. Also, if you suffer from a bleeding disorder (e.g. hemophilia) or are being treated with anti-coagulants, then cupping is not advisable for you.