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Cupping: everything you need to know

Are you looking for a new wellness method to boost your metabolism, reduce your pain and make you feel great? Cupping, also known as cup therapy and suction cup therapy, is a complimentary therapy technique. While it’s less well known than practices such as massage and acupuncture, it has lots of benefits. Here’s what you need to know about cupping before you get started.

What is cupping?

Cupping is a form of traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern healing therapy that has been practiced for thousands of years in order to treat a wide range of complaints.

In a cupping session, the therapist will place cups along your body, including your back, stomach, arms and legs. Using suction or vacuum force, the cups pull on your skin and the soft tissue beneath, expanding and breaking tiny blood vessels called capillaries. This increases healthy blood flow to the area, promoting healing.

Cups are usually made of glass or plastic, but bamboo, ceramic, metal or silicone may also be used.

What to expect during a cupping session

Cupping is a relatively simple and low risk procedure with a qualified practitioner, such as an acupuncturist or chiropractor. There are a few different methods of cupping, with different benefits. These include:

  • Dry cupping – in dry cupping, the cups are placed against your skin, and then the therapist sucks the air out of the cup, using flame, electrical or manual suction. Each cup is left in place for three to five minutes.

  • Wet cupping – in wet cupping, your therapist will use a needle or small scalpel to gently puncture your skin before placing the cups.

  • Running cupping – in this treatment, your therapist will apply lotion or oil to your skin before placing the cups. Then, when the cups are placed, they will move them gently around your body, targeting areas where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort.

Usually, three to seven cups will be used during a treatment, which often takes around 20 minutes. The treatment will cause red marks and if it causes bleeding, your therapist will apply appropriate bandages for you.

Will cupping hurt? What are the risks?

Generally, cupping shouldn’t hurt, though you may be sore afterwards. When your treatment is complete, you’ll have red marks that look like bruises. These aren’t actual bruises that have damaged muscle fibres, but rather broken capillaries that should fade in a week or two (Cleveland Clinic, 2023).

Cupping is a low-risk therapy, but there are some minor risks you should be aware of. In some cases, cupping may result in bruising, burns, fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness or nausea. In very rare cases, it may cause a drop in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to fainting or scarring. This is mostly found with wet cupping treatments. (Cleveland Clinic, 2023)

[Heading 2] What are the benefits of cupping?

While the exact mechanisms through which cupping works have not been clinically proven (Abdullah et al., 2019), it has been shown to increase blood flow, loosen connective tissue and is thought to stimulate healing, relieve pain and relax muscle tension. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s believed that cupping can promote overall health by stimulating the flow of Qi throughout the body.

Some specific concerns that may be helped with cupping practice include:

  • Arthritis or neck, shoulder, and back pain. Increased blood flow helps relieve muscle tension and promote cell repair, helping to relieve muscle pain in various areas of your body (Resolution, 2019). Studies have suggested that cupping therapy, when combined with typical Western medicine, can lead to a significant improvement in pain associated with knee osteoarthritis (Jin-Quan Li et al., 2017).

  • Asthma and congestion. Clinical evidence has suggested that cupping can have positive effects on asthma by assisting to break up mucus and clear congestion from your lungs (Lei Guo et al., 2021). It also flushes your respiratory muscles with fresh, oxygenated blood, promoting quicker recovery from colds, bronchitis and asthma (Resolution, 2019).

  • Anxiety. Similar to massage, cupping, especially running cupping, engages your parasympathetic nervous system. This can help to relax you and relieve feelings of anxiety (Resolution, 2019).

  • Varicose veins, stretch marks, scars and cellulite. Increased blood flow has many benefits, including to the appearance of your skin. Extra blood flow can help to address these superficial concerns by helping to restore lymphatic circulation, and remove excess fluid (Resolution, 2019).

Ready to see if cupping can help you feel your best? Book in to see our expert acupuncturist Yukiko for cupping treatment (only dry and running cupping available).


Cleveland Clinic, Cupping Therapy, 2023

Abdullah M.N. Al-Bedah,a Ibrahim S. Elsubai,a, Naseem Akhtar Qureshi, Tamer Shaban Aboushanab,a Gazzaffi I.M. Ali, Ahmed Tawfik El-Olemy, Asim A.H. Khalil, Mohamed K.M. Khalil, and Meshari Saleh Alqaeda., The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action, J Tradit Complement Med, 2019

Resolution, 7 Surprising Benefits of Cupping Massage, 2019

Jin-Quan Li, Wen Guo, Ze-Gan Sun, Qing-Song Huang, En Yeong Lee, Ying Wang, Xiao-Dong Yao, Cupping therapy for treating knee osteoarthritis: The evidence from systematic review and meta-analysis, Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 2017

Lei Guo, MD, Lie Wang, BS, Zhongtian Wang, MS, Lina Wei, MD, Lizhong Ding, MS, Yibu Kong, MD, Zhimei Liu, MS, Ye Tian, MD, Fushuang Yang, MD, and Liping Sun, MD., Evaluation of the effectiveness and safety of cupping therapy in the treatment of asthma, Medicine (Baltimore), 2021


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