Since the Rio Olympics and Michael Phelps' cupping marks - the ancient practice of cupping has come to surface again.

Cupping is a type of therapy that is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which uses instruments shaped like cups (traditionally round glass cups) to help regulate the flow of Qi (energy) and Blood.

Cupping helps to move Qi and Blood and opens up the pores allowing for speeding up the recovery process of injuries as well improve circulation in localized areas.

The effect of the therapy is classified into two categories:

  1. General - purification of blood, improvement of circulatory functions, regulation and betterment of autonomic nervous system, etc.

  2. Local (removal of pain, relaxation of stiff muscles, etc.) and restore the flow of Qi or energy, Blood and Fluids hence becoming more popular amongst athletes for healing injuries faster.

Effects upon the organs and bodily tissues are as follows:

1. Effects upon the skin

When placed on the body by a naturopathic doctor or TCM practitioner, the direct effect of cupping on the skin causes an increase in blood circulation on the local area, a rise in skin temperature, the promotion of metabolism within skin tissue, better functioning of sweat and sebaceous glands and cutaneous respiration bringing about an abundant supply of nutrients to the tissues.

Cupping therapy also helps to remove toxins from the surface of the skin. It accelerates the secretion of excess salts, sebaceous matter and excretion of excess water caused by water retention as a result of the direct physical stimuli on the hair roots and the expansion of the blood vessels by the pull of low pressure of the cups. These effects are great for people who tend to suffer from water retention and various skin problems.

2. Effects upon muscles

The pull of the low pressure in cupping therapy activates the functioning of the blood vessels within the muscles in response to the stimulation of the subcutaneous capillary vessels. The expansion of the blood vessels in the muscles will result in facilitating the flow of blood and will therefore have a great effect on a stiff shoulder for example by mobilizing stagnation of blood generally seen as bruising. This also facilitates the flow of the lymph.

The skin will be glowing due to the rise in skin temperature and muscles by the increase of blood flow. This action promotes faster healing of injuries, bringing down inflammation and release of tension from muscles, as well helps in breaking down the scar tissue which can cause limitation in range of motion and mobility.

In my naturopathic practice, for clients who complain of muscle tightness and stiffness, a short 10-minute session of cupping after acupuncture tremendously improves the pain and stiffness and the mobility of the joint. Most clients have noticed an improvement in back and shoulder pain, as well, a feeling of release of tension in the affected area.

3. Effects upon joints

Cupping therapy is very effective for chronic joint rheumatism. The treatment is concentrated on the area of the joints that are affected. When it is a mild condition, it is possible for an almost complete cure resulting from better flow of blood within the joint, the activity and secretion of synovial fluids. Cupping can also help to remove muscular spasms around the joints.

4. Effects upon the digestive organs

Many patients feel hungry after receiving cupping therapy in the stomach region. The spleen and stomach are looked upon as the engine for the body. Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body derives most of its energy from the digestive organs, therefore there is a great deal of emphasis is laid on the treatment of the stomach, spleen and intestines.

The pulling low-pressure power of cupping on the stomach region stimulates the insides of the organs, their peristaltic movement and the secretion of digestive fluids, resulting in the improving digestion and absorption of nutrients. This therapy is great for treating chronic gastro-enteretic disorders and constipation, and menstrual issues for women. These organs are also affected favourably when treating the back, by stimulation of the spinal nerves and autonomic nerves.

The therapy also strengthens the respiratory organs when cupping is done on the upper back? I quite often use cupping therapy for patients who have bronchitis and mucus congestion due to colds and flu.

5. Purification of blood

Cupping helps to awaken the greatest responses in the circulatory system. The flow of the blood in veins and arteries increases; it eases the interruption of blood circulation and congestion and helps to stop the inflammatory extravasation of fluids from the tissues. The facilitation of the blood flow is most positively effected by this therapy and helps with toxin removal and excretion of excess salts and toxins, thus purifying blood.

6. Effects on the Nervous System

Cupping therapy stimulates the sensory nerves of the skin. The inhibitory effects on hypersensitive pain are limited to the area of direct treatment, but also to the areas the relevant nerves are controlling. Treatment on the back is mainly directed to the spinal nerves and parasympathetic nerves and the sympathetic nerves beside it. The stimulation of these has a good influence not only on the automatic nervous system itself but also on various organs under its control.

7. What else is cupping helpful for?

Cupping therapy is effective against general malaise, such as chronic headaches, dizziness, stiff shoulders, fatigue, caused by anxiety, worry and bodily pain.

It is also effective against endogenous chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, neuralgia and rheumatism. During treatment with this therapy on the back of the loins, for example, some middle-aged or elderly patients fall asleep, snoring loudly. This shows one of the effects upon the nervous system. Therefore, the general and localized effects of this therapy strengthen the healing power against diseases and together with a healthy diet and psychotherapy, help speed up recovery and prevent disease.

Cupping therapy is suitable for the treatment of pain, inflammatory conditions, and for issues related to the digestive, circulatory and respiratory systems.

Cupping is also helpful for various skin conditions including boils and eczema, which tends to get worse with heat, facial paralysis, weakness of the muscles, high blood pressure, common colds, constipation and painful periods.

Cupping is helpful for all ages, but talk to your naturopathic doctor or TCM practitioner to get a proper assessment and to make sure this therapy is right for you.

Relax, restore, and heal with acupuncture and cupping therapy. Your one hour, customized acupuncture therapy session will include a consultation with our licensed naturopathic doctor. Your therapy session may include aromatherapy and relaxation music.

You may also add Cupping Therapy to your Acupuncture Treatment. Glass cups are placed on specific areas of your body, causing a mild suction which brings oxygen rich circulation to the area relieving sore, stiff muscles, and pain.

If you are interested in scheduling a cupping session, please call the clinic at 416 913 4325 (HEAL) or email us.

Please ask your doctor or naturopath before starting on any supplements. Its is better to first identify the cause and then treat it with the right remedies, even though those mentioned above have minimal side effects.

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