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Acupuncture is the most widely known form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but a lesser known but equally therapeutic form of TCM  is known as Chinese Cupping. It has gained recognition in the past few years as celebrities and athletes are spotted with the recognizable (but temporary) “cupping marks” left on the skin after treatment. The 2016 Summer Olympics brought it back into the spotlight once again, piquing the curiosity of many Americans.

At Boca Raton Acupuncture we incorporate the use of Chinese Cupping into many treatment plans as it is a highly effective and therapeutically sound method of getting favorable clinical results.

The Origins of Chinese Cupping

Chinese Cupping Therapy is an ancient form of  TCM which was part of the Taoist medical practice. Cupping therapy, usually referred to as cupping, has been used for its therapeutic value since the year 281 AD. Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, a Chinese ancient manuscript has the first recorded use of the therapy by Ge Hong, the famous alchemist, Taoist and medicinal herbalist.

In these times the therapy was administered using animal horns, therefore it was called the horn technique of healing in some areas. It’s most popular uses were to suck out the venom from a snake bite or toxins from boils. There are other records of usage of the medicinal technique in the Arabian dessert and even older pictorial evidence from Egypt. In Egypt the medicinal practice was used to treat vertigo, fever, pain, weakened appetite, menstrual imbalance, and also to speed up healing. Cupping was introduced to the Greeks by Egyptians and Hippocrates advocated for it and viewed it to be a remedy for every type of disease. Greek physicians used it to correct spinal misalignment where dislocated vertebrae would be restored.

The Evolution of Chinese Cupping Therapy

The first recorded use of the therapy used animal horns which would be hollowed out. As the technique developed bamboo cups were adopted and used instead of the horns. The cups would be boiled then placed on the affected areas. From boiled bamboo cups and ceramic pottery the therapy then adopted the use of glass. During the Qing dynasty cupping was used together with acupuncture. The heated cups would be placed on top of embedded acupuncture needles. During this time use of the therapy was extend to treat common colds, muscles, knotted nerves, back pains and arthralgia.

In the Arabian dessert another form of cupping therapy was used to suck out blood that was considered bad and cleanse the patient’s system. In this variation small incisions were made in the area that would be cupped.

Different Styles of Cupping Therapy

Modern methods of cupping use cups made of fine plastic or glass. It is usually a pleasant experience, as the cups are gently moved around the skin. Cupping has changed a lot since the turn of the century but the basic principles used hundreds of years back have been kept. The suction in the cup can be created in many ways using the techniques available now. One way is to swab alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, lighting it and instantly placing it on the skin of the patient. Another way is to use a suction device that attaches to the top of the cup. The muscle layer just below the skin is drawn up in a manner that is directly opposite to massaging. Both ways are safe, painless, and highly therapeutic.

Cupping can either be administered to the skin with or without massage oils:

Dry cupping; involves the use of stationary cups which are left on the skin for 5-15 minutes. The aim of this type of cupping is to draw blood to that area and promote circulation.

Massage cupping; this is the most popular form of cupping and is widely used by massage therapists. Oil is applied to the skin before the cups are placed to reveal tension points and make the skin smooth. After the cups are the moved around the back, upper arms, shoulders, neck, sacral area, abdomen and calves in a gliding motion as the therapy continues.

The Benefits of Chinese Cupping

Cupping like most alternative forms of treatment can be used alone or combined with other forms of treatment, both conventional and unconventional.

1. To relieve pain

It is used by medical practitioners for patients who have back, neck, or shoulder problems. It is also used to reduce joint pains naturally. The treatment has also been proven to reduce cancer related pain better than analgesics and anticancer drugs.

2. For relaxation

Massage cupping is mostly used for relaxation as it can sedate the central nervous system. Although it may seem counteractive, the therapy protects patients from anxiety and depression by reducing their stress response.

3. Good for skin health

Cupping improves the condition of the skin by reducing cellulite, acne, herpes and skin inflammation. It also tones the skin by expanding capillaries and increasing blood flow. The oil used also has ingredients that help to condition the skin.

Chinese Cupping therapy is also valuable for clearing chest pains and lung congestion. It is also a valuable treatment for asthma patients.

Call Boca Raton Acupuncture to schedule a free consultation to learn if Chinese Cupping is appropriate for your condition.