What is cupping therapy exactly? You’ve seen it in photos or in spa brochures and you wonder, how does it work? What are the benefits? How is it different from the traditional massage therapies? It’s quite an odd method if you think about it, especially considering that they’re using cups for massage. We have, however, previously wrote about snails, snakes, and robots so this isn’t as unusual as it should be.
How did it start and who invented it? The practice dates from as early as 3000 BC. In fact, it dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. However, cupping developed over time from the original use of hollowed out animal horns. They initially used this method to treat boils and suck out the toxins out of snakebites and skin lesions. Horns slowly evolved into bamboo cups, which were eventually replaced by glass cups.
How It Works
Cupping therapy involves creating a local suction on the skin. Through suction, the skin is drawn into the cup by creating a vacuum in the cup placed on the skin over the targeted area. The vacuum can be created either by the heating and subsequent cooling of the air in the cup, or via a mechanical pump.
Just like any other innovative massage techniques, a lot of people only have claims for cupping therapy’s benefits. Some say that it relieves back pain while others claim to have improved sense of well-being. Today, however, there are scarce scientific studies on cupping. One report, published in 2015 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, notes that it could help with acne, herpes zoster, and pain management. The British Cupping Society, on the other hand, says that cupping therapy is used to treat:
- Blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia
- Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Fertility and gynecological disorders
- Skin problems such as eczema and acne
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety and depression
- Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
- Varicose veins
No reports of systemic side effects after cupping have been documented. However, you can develop these side effects only in the area where the cups touch your skin:
- Mild discomfort
- Skin infection
Other than those stated above, no harmful effects will happen. This is, of course, especially true if your massage therapist is an experienced one. So, always check your therapists background if its your first time getting a massage from him or her.