I first learned about cupping when I was studying TCM in college. It can be done as a very simple practice or a much more complicated one. For beginners, the basics of cupping can provide relief from a variety of musculoskeletal pains with a very low risk of injury, unlike with acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Many people are scared to try cupping at first because they have only seen images of the radical fire cupping. Fire cupping is not necessary to get the benefits of cupping. Now we have suction pumps and cups that have screws to remove air and provide the same benefits as fire.
From the outside, a cup is placed on a spot of the body and the air is removed from the cup causing suction for the cup to stay on the skin. This suction gives the sensation that the skin is being pulled away from the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments below the surface. When this happens there are a few different things going on below the surface.
In an area that is being cupped, blood cells that have leaked out of the capillaries, toxins that have not been filtered out of the body, and waste molecules that have leaked out of circulation are pulled to the surface of the skin. At the same time there is an increase of blood flow in the area. As blood flow increases, the toxins and blood cells that have leaked begin to flow away from the area. Some of the toxins and blood cells will not be flushed from the area during cupping and will appear like a bruise on the skin. This is nothing to be worried about and is a sign that it is working. These bruises usually take 1-2 weeks to disappear and the process can be sped up using a product like Dit Dat Jiao.
Tense muscles are allowed to release due to the steady pressure of the suction when they are cupped. After a cup has been removed it is a sensation similar to having received a massage on the area. This can be great for relieving tight muscles that you do not have the strength or time to massage. In particular, cupping does a good job at getting at knots in the shoulders and low back. This is generally what athletes are aiming for when they get cupping done. *note* cupping should not be done during menstruation.
Be sure to come back next week to learn how to do cupping. In the mean time, you can find simple cupping sets on amazon for low costs if this sounds like something you would like to explore more. I recommend this set for beginners.
Jillian Carnrick, founder and manager of The Dancing Herbalist, has a Masters of Science Degree in Herbal Medicine, practices as a nutritionist, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and Exercise Is Medicine Professional through the American College of Sports Medicine. The Dancing Herbalist posts on this blog every Thursday. For more of our posts, join us on Patreon. Jillian also presents regular live classes in The Dancing Herbalist’s home herbalist courses online. For more learning opportunities or to work one-on-one with Jillian with her wellness and herbal consultations visit The Dancing Herbalist.com.