By: Cybil Kendrick, Licensed Acupuncturist
Cupping is an ancient treatment that has been used worldwide for thousands of years for many ailments, in modern times it is best known for its benefits in treating musculoskeletal pain and restrictions.
Treatments like massage, rolfing and foam rolling apply pressure into the body, while cupping uses negative pressure which helps draw out toxins and moves stagnant fluids. It is best recognized by the bruising that appears afterward, but how does creating bruising benefit so many conditions? The bruising is a side effect of the suction that is created, which is improving microcirculation in the local area by pulling out old stagnant blood that is impeding the flow of fresh, oxygenated blood and taking it to the surface where the lymph system can then eliminate them. The influx of fresh oxygenated blood helps to build and repair cells which in turn will increase their metabolic efficiency. In Asian medicine we talk in terms of Qi and blood. When there is stagnation of these substances, pain and dis-ease arise. Cupping aids in decreasing pain and disease by pulling out toxins, stagnant blood & Qi from the vessels so that the healthy Qi and blood can circulate and engender fresh new blood for the body to use. Here are some remarkable benefits of the ancient treatment of Cupping:
Cupping is a great treatment modality for muscle pain because it helps to break up fascial adhesions and move out stagnation of Qi and blood which is considered the main cause of pain in Asian medicine. Cupping is considered one of the deepest forms of massage as it is thought to reach up to 4 layers of tissue below the skin. By breaking up adhesions between these layers and moving out blockages it can offer more freedom of movement and reduced spasms and pain.
Respiratory conditions are possibly the most common usage for cupping around the world. This is because cupping helps to break up congestion by pulling it away from the chest. Cupping helps relieve symptoms one has during the common cold as well as with lingering respiratory symptoms following a cold. Patients also note that cupping will calm symptoms of asthma in the same way. Clinically we notice that cupping also helps the lungs clear phlegm and congestion providing significant relief to patients suffering from chronic respiratory symptoms. For these conditions a patient may seek relief one time or may choose to maintain their respiratory health with regular visits monthly or every few weeks.
The abdomen is an area that is often overlooked in manual treatment and yet it is an area where many of us carry a lot of tension both emotionally and physically. By addressing meridians that correspond to digestion, the musculature and the fascia that tighten down and restrict the free movement of organs in abdomen cupping can help many digestive complaints. This negative pressure can help increase the secretion of digestive enzymes, peristalsis, and the absorption of water and nutrients. Cupping is an amazing tool to help move Qi and blood and strengthen the digestive system thereby helping with constipation, indigestion/heartburn, releasing emotions, immune function, and overall digestive health.
With its ability to improve circulation and pull toxins out of the cells, cupping can help to detoxify the body by bringing toxins and old blood cells to the lymphatic system for elimination. Once the stagnant blood and fluids are removed, the connective tissue loosens and capillaries open up, fresh blood can then flow in and help repair cells, accelerate metabolism and benefit overall health.
Cupping, especially gliding cups, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which lowers your heart rate and activates digestion and in turn helps to calm your mind and reduce tension. Regular treatments can help reduce stress and anxiety and benefit sleep.
As mentioned before bruising is a common reaction to cupping and the color of the marks is related to the strength of the suction and the amount of stagnation in the system. With consistent treatments the amount of stagnation will reduce and the marks will no longer occur. Consider adding cupping to your next acupuncture, massage or chiropractic appointment as it can be a beneficial tool on your road to better health.
Cybil Kendrick, L.Ac.,MSOM, C.SMA, RMT is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) with her masters in Oriental medicine (MSOM) and is certified in Sports Medicine Acupuncture® (C.SMA) and massage therapy (RMT).