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What is cupping?

Cupping is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) therapy used to treat ‘stagnation’ within the body. Stagnation happens with all kinds of muscle tension and strain, and in some people, stagnation is a part of their general condition or illness.

The treatment involves placing glass cups that are heated with a flame onto the affected areas. As the air inside the cups cools, a vacuum is created which makes the skin rise. The suction flushes out the toxins and relaxes tight muscles.

What happens in a cupping therapy session?

Cupping therapy relieves tension, strain and stagnation by stimulating blood circulation and bringing ‘old blood’ to the surface. Old blood is in fact stagnant cellular debris, dead lymph and toxins. Cupping helps to release these toxins and debris, and brings new fresh blood and nutrients to the area to promote healing. After a treatment, the colour of the cupping marks shows the degree of stagnation. Dark or purple marks indicate deep or long-term stagnation, and more severe injuries. Lighter colour marks indicate milder levels of stagnation.

Cupping uses glass cups that are heated with a flame, then applied to the affected area. The heat within the cup creates a ‘sucking’ sensation that draws stagnation and tension out of the body. There are three main types of cupping therapy:

Stationary cupping – this is when several cups are applied to the affected area and left in place for a few minutes. Stationary cups are used to relieve all kinds of muscle strain and tension.

Mobile cupping – a small amount of balm or oil is applied to the skin and we move or ‘glide’ the cups over the area. This is great for large areas like the upper back for instance, to relax all the tight spots while increasing the flow of qi and blood to repair injury.

Flash cupping – this is when the cup is applied and removed quickly, creating a ‘popping’ noise. Flash cupping is repeated quickly over a number of spots, perhaps all the way down the band of muscles alongside the spine. This form of cupping is very effective to promote whole body healing. It is gentler and causes the least amount of bruising.

From a biomedical viewpoint, the cup’s sucking action brings blood to the surface causing petechiae, or ‘bruising’, blood leaking into the subcutaneous tissue. This slight extravasation from the surrounding capillaries causes an instant healing response – an increased number of platelets and fibrin flowing into the area helps stop the bleeding. The sucking action of the cups, and their ‘bruising’ effect, brings clean-up cells such as phagocytes and macrophages to repair injured cells and tissue and to break down and dissolve the petechiae, an affect that reaches all the ‘old blood’.

Cupping can give instant relief for sore muscles and stiff joints. After cupping therapy, it is very common to leave the Clinic with instant improvements in muscle tension and pain – clients frequently comment on how their tight muscles have relaxed and stiff joints feel so much easier. Later, they tell us about additional effects, like how their sleep improved, they felt less stressed, and their general well being felt that much better.

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