Inspired by celebrities in Hollywood who use cupping to remove cellulite, many new patients are flocking to clinics to try the practice themselves. Thanks to stars like Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham, who all swear by the natural healing method, cupping is now the new alternative treatment for wellness and cosmetic purposes.
What is cupping?
Cupping, which has always worked hand-in-hand with acupuncture and Tuina, is a widely adopted traditional therapy initially used by ancient Chinese. Thousands of years ago, traditional Chinese medical practitioners used cups that were made of bullhorns or bamboos, as opposed to the glass or plastic cups that are used today. Regardless of what the cups are made of, cupping works either by burning the oxygen inside it or sucking out the air from the top of it. The cup is then quickly placed onto the acu-points of a patient’s skin, and the vacuum draws the skin into it. The low pressure inside the cup mobilizes the free flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood around the body through meridians, thus removing toxins, treating pains and muscle stiffness, ultimately creating elemental balance within all connected organs.
It is a self-healing therapy
While not that many people appreciate the concepts of Qi and meridians, I always explain to my patients that cupping is minimally invasive. The suction effect of cupping breaks the blood vessels underneath skin, causing hyperemia in the area. The self-healing process is activated when the body receives signal of this minor injury. A series of chemical reactions follow, aiding an increase of blood circulation and lymphatic flow, as well as a reduction in built-up fluid. As a result, it eases the achy pain on muscles, diminishes the swelling in tissues, speeds up the metabolism rate, and strengthens the defense system.
And it feels good
The cups will remain on the skin for 5 to 15 minutes, often leaving their signature circular bruises once they are removed. These red or purplish “giant hickeys” are indications of internal pathogens such as coldness or dampness, which causes the stasis of Qi and blood and usually fades within a week or two. However, these bruises may look more creepy and painful than they really are. By moving the Qi and blood to the surface of the skin, patients will not feel pain but just the pressure of the vacuum cups. Many say that they actually feel very relaxed after each session.
You should consider cupping therapy if you have:
- Pain in neck, lower back, shoulders and legs.
- The start of a cold, flu or cough.
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as stomachache, diarrhea and constipation.
- Paralysis and stroke.
- Respiratory issues such as asthma.
- Skin disease such as acnes, eczema, hives, herpes/shingles (enhanced result if accompanied by blood letting therapy).
- Gynecological issues such as menopause syndromes, infertility, menstruation pain.
- Other conditions such as depression, sleeping disorder, poor immunity, weight loss.
Cupping is generally safe when applied by trained professionals. However, it may result in bruising, burns, pain at cupping sites, or skin infection.
It is advised not to take a shower or bath right after cupping, since all pores are open and external pathogens could easily get into the body.
It is not recommended as a replacement for mainstream medication or treatments.
It is not suitable for patients who have blood diseases, or a bleeding tendency.
It is advised to avoid cupping on sensitive areas such as nipples, or abdominal area of pregnant woman.
Article by Dr. Ruth Lee
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