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What is cupping therapy?

When most people hear of Traditional Chinese Medicine, they think of Acupuncture and funny tasting herbal decoctions. But an often overlooked and greatly beneficial technique is cupping. Named for the glass/bamboo/plastic cups used in the treatment, it is also sometimes referred to as, “that thing you do with the fire”. Though flashy in appearance, the flame engulfed cotton ball is used only to create a suction with the glass cups, which are then placed on the skin where they are left to perform their magic. The suction of the cups creates an inverse massage, where instead of applying pressure to the tissue, it sucks it up. This allows stagnant blood, lymph and other pathological stagnations to by pulled from their depths and brought to the surface. This in turn, creates flow and circulation that supports the body’s natural healing process. It is a common phrase in Chinese medicine that, “ where there is blockage there is pain. Remove the blockage, stop the pain”. This can be felt with the relief that is promptly felt after receiving the treatment. A common side effect of cupping is circular or strips of ‘bruising’. Rather than a symptom of damage, as seen with bruises caused by trauma to the tissue, the colouration caused by cupping is actually a result of stagnation being pulled to the surface. It then follows the same colour changes as a “trauma bruise” until it goes away.


Common benefits/uses of cupping:

1. Decreased recovery time between work outs. Micro muscle tearing caused by heavy lifting and exercise can be more efficiently repaired as the cupping draws out the stagnant blood and increases circulation to the affected areas.

2. Alleviation of chronic pain. If soft tissue is not receiving proper nutrition due to lack of circulation or atrophy, or if an acute injury has caused blood stasis and/or swelling, cupping can help increase blood flow and activity to the area in the case of deficiency, or help drain and cause blood circulation to move out the excess in acute conditions.

3. Relaxation and stress relief. By creating more qi and blood flow, knotted and tense muscles relax and contribute to an overall sense of wellbeing and calm. In short, it feels good!

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