In the last few years, Cupping has become increasingly popular. This is largely due to the use of cupping for Olympians (Michael Phelps) and other famous athletes sporting their circle bruising as a cool fashion statement. But really, what is cupping all about?

What is Cupping?
When practicing cupping, suction is created within a small jar (or “cup”) to help increase blood flow in a specific area. Often, these techniques are used to help treat pain due to musculoskeletal problems such as strained muscles, knots, tension, etc.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping is used on areas of stagnation. With cupping, our aim is to bring new blood and nutrients into the affected area so that the body can heal more rapidly, and the patient can go forward with less pain.

Types of Cups
When you start looking at cupping, there are two main types of cups. Either glass jars that are used by heating the air inside the cup with a small flame, and allowing it to go out before placing them on the skin. This is known as fire cupping, and can only be done by licensed practitioners of Chinese Medicine.

The second type have a mechanical suction of some kind attached. They can either be a pump action, or a simple rubber suction. This is becoming more common with massage therapists and Acupuncturists alike. Acupuncturists tend to enjoy them for the convenience, or when a heat therapy would be detrimental to the patient. 

Cupping Techniques
There are a few methods used when cupping in Chinese Medicine. The most common is to apply the cup and leave it for a short period of time. This may or may not be done on top of an oil or lotion. This is what causes the circle bruising you see on celebrities.

Moving cupping, almost always done on top of an oil, is a lighter suction technique in which the practitioner will move the cups around the back. Often, the effect is very relaxing.

Flickering cupping is where the practitioner will apply the cup and immediately take it off. This is a very gentle technique that is great for sensitive areas. It is also the most common technique used for a facial with cupping.