What is cupping?
Cupping is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine in which glass cups are suctioned to the skin using heat to create a vacuum. This therapy helps to eliminate toxins, relieve congestion, improve circulation and relieve muscle tension. The cups can be left stationary or slid along pre-oiled skin, depending on the ailment. While cups can be applied to just about any area of the body, it is common to have cupping performed on the back, neck, shoulders and thighs. Cupping is generally painless and can be as effective as massage for muscle problems. Versions of cupping can be found in many cultures from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
How does it work?
Cupping pulls blood to a region to stimulate healing. It is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles. As new blood is forced into the tissues around the cups the body will begin to develop new blood vessels called neovascularization, new blood vessel formation. These new vessels can feed the tissues with nutrients and oxygen, leading to lasting pain relief.
While the tissues get saturated with fresh blood, the vacuum pulls stagnant blood out of the area. Where there is dead, static blood, lymph, cellular debris, pathogenic factors and toxins present in the body, cupping can leave marks which indicates that the stagnation has been moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface. These marks tend to fade in 2-5 days, and the more cupping you receive the less the bruising happens.
Cupping is especially effective for symptoms such as pain, muscle knots, swelling, and tension caused by prolonged exposure to air conditioning in the office. It can also help stimulate detoxification, loosen phlegm in the lungs, and improve overall circulation. Cupping can sometimes result in temporary discoloration of the skin called petechiae. These marks are associated with improved blood flow to the area and naturally dissipate within a few days.
Cupping method uses thick glass cups as its tool for treating diseases and is often an adjunctive technique used in acupuncture treatments. It can be thought of as a reverse massage. Instead of applying pressure, the skin is gently drawn upwards by creating a vacuum in a cup over the affected area. The cups stay in place for 5-15 minutes and are neither painful nor uncomfortable.
At Omaha Acupuncture and Chiropractic, we provide the traditional fire cupping techniques which include flash-fire cupping, slide cupping, and retaining cupping. Flash-fire cupping is a technique involving quick repetitive motion of attaching and removing the cup and has the effect of awakening the Qi and skin. This technique allows the practitioner to gradually affect the superficial tissues to the deep tissues. Slide cupping is then performed by sliding the cup which energizes the meridians and muscles. This has the added benefit of increasing blood flow and enhancing the flow of Qi. Retaining cupping leaves the cups in place for added heat therapy and allows the vacuum effect to fully take its full course.
The above three techniques can be employed individually or in combination to treat a variety of conditions. The practitioner can manually control the strength of the cupping to adjust to the patient’s needs and tolerance and to treat different areas of tissue and muscles.
Who would benefit?
Lung Issues: Cupping over the lungs helps to loosen up phlegm, boost immunity and deepen breathing. It’s effective for common colds, asthma and allergies.
Detoxification: When we talk about detoxifying, what we are really trying to do is to clear excess heat that burdens the liver. This accumulates from stress, eating processed foods, drinking alcohol and coffee, and taking pharmaceuticals. Cupping clears excess heat from the body, as evidenced by the red marks that can linger on the skin for several days after.
Weight Loss: Rich, high-fat and processed foods bog down the Spleen-Stomach system and create mucus in the body. This results in bloating, gas, loose stools and abdominal distension. Cupping can help clear this mucus and aid in weight loss.
Musculoskeletal Pain: Cupping is like a reverse massage, using suction rather than pressure to relax the muscles. The heat and suction also work to bring fresh blood to a pain area and release blockages there. It is useful for back, neck and shoulder pain, and sciatica.
Digestive Problems: Cupping can help improve the digestive system when the cups are applied to the stomach area. By relaxing the stomach muscles and improving blood flow, it can increase nutrient absorption.
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