How Cupping Works

Cupping is a practice of placing cups on the body using some method of creating suction, in order to produce a vacuum like pressure on the underlying tissue, and the substances within it. The suction traditionally would come from either heating the cup itself, such as in hot water, or by bringing a flame into the cup in order to push the air out, and allow it to stick to the body.

The most common modern method, is the use of plastic cups with a valve at the back, and a pump. The advantage of these is twofold : One, safety. The old school glass cups always would carry the risk that there could a chip in the rim of the cup near the patient’s skin, and that the cups themselves might break during use or cleaning. Pretty rare possibilities, but still possible. The second advantage is adjustability. Increasing or decreasing the pressure in a cup once it’s been placed is very tricky with glass / bamboo, or other traditional cups, whereas with the newer types, the practitioner can get the pressure just right for the patient’s comfort level and the pressure needed for the desired therapeutic effect.

So what do the cups actually do? These days, it’s common for cupping to be explained as “bringing blood to the area” which is true, or that it “relaxes the muscle”. Both are fair assessments, although I would like to offer here, the explanation that I generally give my patients, and which, while anecdotal, explains some of what I see regularly with my patient’s and their experience of healing and regeneration from cupping.

Bruising is a common side effect of Cupping? In fact, it’s the bruising that often indicates the effectiveness of cupping. Click here to read more about Why Cupping Causes Bruising.

What should I expect?

Cupping can leave bruises that last for a couple of days, to a few weeks, depending on the patient. Some of the marks may be just a light pink, others could be a deep purple or black. After cupping, you will likely feel some sensitivity over the area, especially if the bruising is quite strong, and this sensitivity might last for a few days, to a week or so also. This is part of the process and a patient can get the bruise and it’s tenderness clearing faster if they apply some heat, such as with a heating pad, and if they increase their water intake, especially if they drink the water hot or warm.

In general, cupping is not painful to receive, however, it can be uncomfortable, and it’s important for the practitioner and patient to both communicate during the process so that the right amount of pressure can be applied, to find the right balance between therapeutic effect, and patient comfort. With good communication, and a good set of cups, great healing effects can be achieved, and many previously stubborn problems can be moved towards resolution, or in some cases, healed entirely!

Click here to learn more about what conditions cupping treats.