Cupping Therapy

You may have just heard of cupping therapy, and you are wondering what it is all about. You may have even known of this therapy for a while now, but it seems like that is what everyone around you is talking about. 

So, you just find yourself wondering what the fuss is all about. Regardless of why you looking to know more about this practice, you are in the right place because we will be discussing everything you need to know about it here. 

What is Cupping Therapy

You may have just learned of it, or it just got trendy now, but cupping therapy goes way back. Ancient Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Egyptian cultures used to practice this therapy for several reasons. 

Cupping therapy happens to fall under the alternative medicine category. This means it is one of the many therapies that are used in place of mainstream therapies. You can read this article to learn more about alternative medicine. 

This practice involves placing cups on the skin for a couple of minutes so that suction can be created on the skin. This practice is done for several purposes including helping with blood flow, inflammation, relaxation, and pain. 

The cup used for the process could be made with any of the following materials: 

  • Silicone
  • Earthenware 
  • Bamboo 
  • Glass


We have two main types of this process: 

  • Wet 
  • Dry 


Regardless of the type of cupping (whether wet or dry), the process is basically the same. 

The therapist first puts a flammable material like alcohol, paper, or herbs in the cup and then sets the material on fire. When the fire burns out, the therapist will then place the open part of the cup on the client’s skin. 

The cup will be left on the skin for at least 3 minutes, during which time the air in it will cool down and then form a vacuum. Ultimately, this will cause the skin to redden and swell because the blood vessels will be made to expand. 

This is the more traditional approach and the cupping in NYC or other states which you may visit for this therapy may take a more modern approach. This modern version would involve using rubber pumps rather than fire to make the vacuum in the cup. 

If a massage-like effect is the aim of the procedure, the therapy may use cups made of silicone and then move them around the skin to make this effect. 

When it comes to wet cupping, the cup just like usual will be left for at least 3 minutes. After this period, the cup will be removed but the procedure will not end here. The therapist will go ahead to make small light cuts on the client’s skin using a tiny scalpel. 

After the cuts are made, they will then do another suction where a small amount of the client’s blood will be drawn out. 

For your first session, you may decide to keep things simple by using just one cup. You can also take things up a notch and use 3 to 5 cups. However, using more than seven cups is quite rare. 

After the session, the client will be given a bandage and antibiotic ointment so that the skin will not get infected. In about 10 days or lesser, the skin should go back to its usual appearance. 

Those that believe in this practice claim that the wet variety helps to remove harmful toxins out of the body. However, this is yet to be proven. 

There are also other variants of this practice, like needle cupping. With needle cupping, acupuncture needles are first inserted into the skin then cups are placed over them. 

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Talk to your Doctor and Therapist

Before you engage in this practice or even any other form of alternative medicine, ensure you talk to your doctor about it. 

You also need to have an extensive talk with your therapist too. The following are some very vital questions to ask them: 

  • What are the conditions they use the process for? 
  • What training do you have? 
  • How long have you been practicing? 
  • Are there any reasons I should not get this therapy? 

What the Research Says

There are so many claims about the benefits of cupping from supporters of this practice. But because enough scientific studies have not been done in this area, a lot of these claims have not been proved. 

However, there are some reports about this therapy. One of which was published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2015. According to this report, this practice can help people with pain management, acne, and herpes zoster. 

This report is also similar to another published in 2012 by PLoS One. Here, some Chinese and Australian researchers reviewed cupping studies (135 of them). At the end of their review, it was concluded that this practice may work effectively for some conditions when combined with other treatments such as medications and acupuncture. Visit to learn more about acupuncture. 

Some of the conditions and diseases cupping can work for alongside other treatments include: 

  • Cervical spondylosis 
  • Facial paralysis 
  • Acne 
  • Herpes zoster 

However, these researchers noted that most of the reviewed studies could be biased, therefore, better studies in this area are required. 

According to the British Cupping Society, cupping can be used for the treatment of the following: 

  • Gynecological disorders and fertility 
  • Rheumatic diseases like fibromyalgia and arthritis 
  • Blood disorders like hemophilia and anemia
  • Varicose veins 
  • Bronchial congestion that is caused by asthma and allergies 
  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Migraines 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Skin issues like acne and eczema 

But as we already said, there are no studies to back up all these claims. 

Side Effects

This practice is relatively safe as far as the therapist is a health professional. However, the following side effects may be noticed in places the cups had touched: 

  • Skin infection 
  • Bruises 
  • Burns
  • Mild discomfort 

Also, if the equipment used gets blood contaminants and is not properly sterilized between patients, some bloodborne diseases like hepatitis B can spread. 


Cupping therapy is a medical practice that dates back to several ancient civilizations. Supporters of the process have so many claims about it including that it can help with blood flow, relaxation, inflammation, and pain. Plus, it can be used for the treatment of several conditions. However, there are no studies to back up these claims. Despite this, the process is relatively safe, so there is no harm in trying. Just ensure you speak to your doctor about it before you do.

By Caitlyn

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