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Cupping Therapy: Types, Benefits And Side Effects

Prominently used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cupping therapy is used for removing stagnation and stimulating the flow of qi (chi). It is basically a skin rejuvenation technique that involves specially made cups to create a vacuum in order to provide deep tissue massage. This alternative therapy is asserted to help facilitate healing with blood flow [1] .

There are various assertions regarding the therapy, with some believing it to help balance the yin and yang - the negative and the positive. It can help improve your body's resistance to external pollutants and diseases, as well as reduce any sort of pain [2] . The improved blood circulation promoted by cupping therapy can help relieve muscle tension and promote cell repair.

Cupping therapy involves placing a plastic cup on the skin and pumping air out of the space inside the cup. This creates a suction that breaks capillaries, the small blood vessels near the skin's surface. It results in red or purple marks to occur in the area where the cup was placed [3] . The cups used for the therapy are made of glass, bamboo, earthenware or silicone; with glass, cups being the most commonly used one.

Types Of Cupping Therapy

The two major types of therapy are dry cupping and wet cupping [4] .

1. Dry cupping

This variant of the therapy involves a vacuum created by burning a combustible material such as alcohol or paper in a cup. It is kept as it is until the fire is doused [5] . Once the fire goes off, the cup is inverted immediately and placed on the area of the body which is to be treated. It is kept as it is until the cup is completely cooled from inside and vacuum is created. This causes your blood vessels to expand and thus works on your body [6] .

2. Wet cupping

This is slightly different from dry cupping. Wet cupping involves creating suction as mentioned in dry cupping. The difference here is that once the suction is created by placing the cup on your skin, the therapist uses a tiny scalpel to create light cuts on your skin. Post that, the therapist conducts a second suction to draw out little blood from your body. An antibiotic ointment will be applied to prevent infections [7] .

While dry and wet cupping is the main types, there are some other minor variations to cupping therapy such as fire cupping, magnetic cupping, acupuncture cupping and massage cupping [8].

Fire cupping is carried out by soaking a cotton ball in pure alcohol, which is then clamped by a pair of forceps and lit on fire. This lit cotton ball is immediately placed into a cup, which is then placed on your skin [8] .

Magnetic cupping involves attaching magnets to the inside of the cup. When the skin rises due to the suction, it comes in contact with the magnets [9] .

Acupuncture cupping involves combining acupuncture with cupping therapy. And massage cupping involves applying oil to the skin before carrying out the cupping therapy [8] .

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Benefits Of Cupping Therapy

The alternative therapy possess various benefits and they are as follows [10] :

  • It helps you to get rid of fine lines and wrinkles, thus rejuvenating your skin from within.
  • It treats a number of skin conditions such as eczema, acne, pimples, and urticaria.
  • It helps to remove cellulite from your skin and also help to lighten scars on your body.
  • It reduces puffiness.
  • It boosts blood circulation and in turn stimulates the collagen production in your body.
  • It helps improve your digestion and manage irritable bowel syndrome.
  • It also helps improve your immune function.
  • It helps treat allergies and cough.

Conditions Treated Through Cupping Therapy

Cupping, the alternative therapy has been widely used for treating various ailments. As cupping can be applied on your acupressure points, the therapy can be applied for treating conditions that are commonly treated through acupressure [11] .

Apart from that, the conditions that can be treated using cupping therapy are as follows [12] :

  • Digestive issues
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Facial paralysis
  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Acne
  • Cough and dyspnea
  • Shingles

Factors To Consider While Going For Cupping Therapy

There are many questions that you might have regarding cupping therapy and the important factors to be considered and taken into your notice while getting the therapy done are as follows:

1. Qualified professional

It is important to make sure that you receive cupping therapy from a qualified professional only, like a TCM practitioner or acupuncturist. Only then, you reap off the maximum benefits of cupping therapy without any side effects [13] .

2. Pain level

You will have to keep a tab on the kind of pain involved during the cupping therapy. Only then will they adjust the pressure after removing the cup.

3. Hygiene

One of the most critical factor to be considered is hygiene. Sterilised tool and hygiene of the clinic is highly important. The cups must be cleaned and sterilized thoroughly before using them on another patient.

4. Sensitive spots

Avoid cupping on and around the areas with small, sensitive muscles and nerves. This includes the neck and jaws.

5. Injuries

Cupping near wounds or fresh injuries is extremely dangerous and painful. Care must be taken to avoid these sensitive areas while undergoing cupping therapy.

6. Timing

The cup must not be left on for more than 15 minutes, as this may create complications and other risks. Further, you may not reap the benefits of cupping therapy if not done by a trained professional.

Anyway, it is always recommended to consult your primary or other health care professional before starting off with the cupping therapy to prevent the risk factors. And avoid the therapy if you are on blood thinning medication [14] [15] .

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Side Effects Of Cupping Therapy

Safe when carried out by a trained professional, cupping therapy can cause some side effects [16] . When the cup comes in contact with your skin, you may experience the following:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Bruises
  • Skin infection
  • Burns
  • Scarring

Apart from those [17] ,

  • you may feel dizzy during the treatment,
  • you can feel nauseated,
  • you tend to over-sweat,
  • and can have pain in the incision sites.

Note: Infection is a major risk linked with cupping therapy. So, make sure that the therapist follows the correct methods before, during and after the therapy.

Cupping Therapy & Its Amazing Benefits You Must Know!

On A Final Note...

It is suggested that this technique should only be practised at home under the supervision of a professional [18] . You can do cupping therapy at home, however, you might need a person to assist you with it. But, it is always preferred that you get professional help. Also, children under the age of 4, senior citizens, pregnant women and women who are menstruating should avoid cupping therapy.

Also, avoid cupping therapy if you have a sunburn, wound, skin ulcer, experienced any trauma recently or any internal organ disorder [19] [20] .

View Article References
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  2. [2] Mehta, P., & Dhapte, V. (2015). Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments.Journal of traditional and complementary medicine,5(3), 127-134.
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