You may remember cupping therapy from the 2016 Summer Olympics, when decorated swimmer Michael Phelps and many of his fellow athletes appeared with the signature red circles on their skin. Cupping is an ancient Chinese treatment that is starting to gain popularity in the United States. It can be thought of as a sort of reverse massage, in which the muscle tissues are pulled up rather than pushed down. Here is what you should know.
What Is Cupping?
A gentle vacuum is created within a small cup. Traditionally, this was done by lighting flammable material such as herbs or paper inside the cup, waiting for the flames to go out, and then pressing the cup onto the skin. The vacuum was created as the cup cooled. Today, it is more common to use a vacuum pump. Either way, the vacuum gently pulls the skin and top layer of muscle tissue upwards. The effects can last for several days.
Cupping has been performed for at least 3000 years. It was originally used as a remedy for tuberculosis and other respiratory ailments, and is sometimes used as a complementary therapy for a variety of illnesses today.
In Western medicine, though, cupping is most often used either alone or in combination with massage and/or acupuncture to soothe pain, promote deep relaxation, and stimulate the body’s natural healing responses. It is generally considered safe, though pregnant women and those with underlying medical conditions should seek their doctor’s approval before starting treatment.
Although cupping is not painful when done properly, it does leave marks on the body. The combination of heat and suction creates a distinctive pattern of circles on the skin. These can be mildly uncomfortable, but most people report that the discomfort is transient, and is far outweighed by the benefits. The circles typically fade within a couple of days.
Bruising, which is a common side effect of cupping, has occasionally been mistaken for signs of abuse.Be sure to explain to your doctor and other mandatory reporters that you (or your child) received cupping therapy that was performed by someone with proper training and experience.
Should I Try Cupping?
Although it is generally considered a safe and effective way to soothe pain and stimulate the body’s healing processes, cupping is not right for everyone. Those with underlying medical conditions, should check with their doctor. Cupping is generally considered safe during pregnancy, though we will avoid certain locations. In addition, your acupuncturist will perform a detailed evaluation and create a customized treatment plan to meet your needs. Cupping may be recommended, depending on your unique health profile, but it is always up to you whether 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 310-428-1215 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.