Sara Says: An Intro to Cups


Sara | August 28, 2016

Ever see someone sporting red or purple round markings on their back? Did you even ask if they were in pain? Were you then surprised to hear that they were not, and even crazier, that they were actually delighted with the process that left those peculiar markings that looked like hickies? Sounds like you just met someone who recently had some cupping therapy! No, cupping isn’t just a new trend that pop culture has taken a liking to, it is so much more than that — and when used appropriately it can be extremely beneficial to your health. Here it is, defined.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a therapy that has been used in China for thousands of years, the method was originally called “horn method”. Originally, the modality started off by using cattle horns {hence the name} or bamboo. Now we are lucky enough to have convenient clean bamboo and glass cups that come in a variety of sizes. At the start, cupping was primarily used for draining excess skin disorders and treatment of poisonous snake bites. After some time it was discovered that the suction created by the cups was also extremely effective for curing chronic coughs as well. Today, cupping is used to treat many different imbalances {asthma, allergies, common cold, coughs, digestion disturbances, pelvic pain, skin conditions, and emotional imbalances just to name a few}.

How Does it Work?

The treatment is actually quite simple. The mouth of the cups are suctioned to the surface of the skin {typically the back but not always} through a negative pressure created by a flame {usually a cotton ball soaked in alcohol} inserted into the cup just before the cups are placed to the skin. The heat creates the negative pressure which allows the cups to suction to the skin creating local congestion {the red and purple markings}.

Cupping is decidedly used when the patient presents with congestion, stagnation or an area where Qi {energy} is not flowing freely. Although the modality is quite simplistic it is not appropriate for all patients, very specific signs and symptoms must be present in order for the treatment of cupping to be effective and not too draining. In many cases, the purpose of the modality is to remove what is no longer needed from the body. If cupping therapy is used on a patient with a deficient type constitution it could possible leave that patient feeling extremely fatigued and/or susceptible to illness. Do not be fooled by how simple it may seem, this treatment is potent! However, when used appropriately, the cups can remove toxins, pathogens, allergens, and even excess emotions {grief, anxiety, stress, etc.} that are either active or have become latent overtime. From experience, it seems the darker the markings or the longer the marks last {more than a week} the more chronic the condition.

Now that you understand the modality and know the markings are not painful, but instead often feels like a release, let’s use a example of when cupping might be appropriate! During this time of year, many are suffering from allergies from all the budding trees and flowers. When a patient presents with the typical allergy signs and symptoms {sneezing, runny nose, post-nasal drip, red and itchy eyes, etc.} cupping the lung area on the back can be extremely effective in getting the patient through the season. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are directly related to the immune system. Since an allergy is an immune system response to an abnormal substance, by cupping the lung area the pathogen is then potentially pulled out of the body. After cupping the lung area the patients active immune system is calmed, leaving them feeling centered, detoxed, and zen!

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Stay Warm, Healthy and Zen! xoxo