Cupping is a lesser known therapy frequently used in conjunction with acupuncture for pain relief. Cupping has been used around the world, and rivals acupuncture in longevity: earliest documentation dates all the way back to 300 AD.
Traditionally glass jars or bamboo cups were used as suction devices. Suction is obtained by placing an inverted cup over a small flame from an alcohol-soaked cotton ball, and then placing the cup quickly onto the skin. The flame is never used near the skin and is immediately extinguished after insertion into the cup. Many practitioners these days still use the glass or bamboo cups, however others choose to use a more modern version: plastic cups and an electric pump.
So how does cupping work? Cupping is like the inverse of massage: instead of applying downward pressure to muscles, myofascial tissue is sucked upward into the cup. The "negative" pressure loosens muscles, powerfully drawing fresh blood into the area. The cups are left on for 10 minutes--or in some cases may be slid up and down an area--and achieve many of the effects of deep tissue massage in a very short period of time.
Cupping can be used by itself or in conjuction with acupuncture, and is primarily used for neck, back and hip tension, but many other uses exist, including cupping for shoulder and knee joint pain. Placed along the spine at "Huatuojiaji" points that connect with particular organ systems, they assist in acupuncture treatments for specific disease patterns.
Cupping also powerfully moves phlegm from the lungs, and is often used to relieve pediatric and adult cough and congestion from colds, asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis.
Like acupuncture, cupping works deep into the body, affecting tissues up to 4 inches beneath skin level. Toxins can be released (especially in areas under the arm where lymphatic tissue is dense), blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed.
Other conditions effectively treated with cupping include: whiplash, chronic TMJ, Bell's Palsy, Baker's cysts, IT band tension, hypertension, and constipation.
NOTE: Cupping will often leave round marks, colored anywhere from light pink to dark purple, for several days after treatment. The darker the discoloration, the more toxic material released. Patients are advised to drink lots of water after especially a first and second cupping, and to expect potential "flu-like" symptoms for a few hours or days.