A lesser-known treatment in Chinese medicine that is becoming very popular with those who have tried it, cupping is a virtually painless procedure that can be used in addition to or as a substitute for acupuncture. Cupping involves creating a gentle vacuum within a crystal cup and then applying it to the part of the body that needs therapy. When combined with the soothing movements of massage, the vacuum wonderfully stimulates the skin, muscle tissues, and nerve fibers. In addition, according to traditional Chinese thought, Qi is the life force or vitality present in all living things. Cupping helps to open blocked channels and improve the flow of both Qi and healing blood to improve your overall health.

History of Cupping

This technique has been used in Chinese medicine for at least 3000 years. It was originally considered a remedy for tuberculosis, and is still used to treat a variety of respiratory ailments. Recent research shows that it may be effective against such conditions as herpes, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, and acne, especially when used as an integrative part of a complete treatment regimen. Cupping is often touted as an alternative remedy for cancer, though most mainstream experts agree that it should be practiced only in tandem with standard cancer treatments and under the advice of an oncologist.

Today, cupping is most widely used both alone and in combination with acupuncture to promote relaxation, soothe both acute and chronic pain, and stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. It is generally considered safe, although pregnant women and those with such medical conditions as bone fractures or metastatic cancer should seek the advice of their doctor before beginning treatment.

How Does Cupping Work?

For cupping, a gentle vacuum is created within a small cup. This is traditionally done by lighting paper, herbs, an alcohol-soaked pad, or another highly flammable material on fire and dropping it in the cup. When the flames are out, the cup is pressed onto the skin. As the cup cools, a vacuum is created. Today, a vacuum pump is often used instead. Either way, the vacuum is gentle enough to avoid pain, but strong enough to gently pull the skin and top muscle layer upwards.

It can be helpful to think of cupping as a sort of reverse massage technique. While traditional massage pushes on the muscles to release tension, cupping gently pulls on them instead. Combining the two can create a stimulating and rejuvenating feeling with lingering effects that can last for days.

Side Effects of Cupping

The vacuum created by the cup pulls the skin and surface muscles upward, while the heat and suction can redden the skin. This creates a distinctive pattern of circles on the skin that has been recently cupped. This is sometimes associated with minor discomfort, but most people report that the benefits of cupping far outweigh the transient pain. These negative effects wear off very quickly, leaving only a warm, invigorated yet relaxed sensation behind.

If done by someone who is not properly trained, cupping can cause bruising and burning, which has led to some media hype and has even been mistaken for signs of child abuse. However, our practitioners have the skills and experience to perform safe and healthy cupping with no lingering side effects.

Is Cupping Right for Me?

Cupping is generally considered safe, and it can stimulate the body’s natural defenses against a wide variety of ailments. Like any treatment, however, it is not right for everyone. We pride ourselves on creating a customized treatment plan that is tailored to your personal health profile. We will let you know if, in our professional opinion, cupping would be beneficial for you. Of course, it is up to you to decide whether or not you would like to try it.

Located in Pacific Palisades, with satellite clinics in Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and Beverly Hills, Thumos Health Center offers patients exceptional personalized care. If you are ready to take the first steps toward a more integrative approach to your health care, we invite you to phone (323) 372-5150 to schedule an appointment at any of our Los Angeles locations. Our highly knowledgeable and friendly staff will be happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.