With Olympic athletes and well-known celebrities proudly showing off their cup marks, the traditional Chinese modality of cupping is definitely hitting the news. How is it that this healing method of creating a bruise by placing suction on an area helps to relieve pain and improve tissue function? It seems absurd, doesn’t it? In fact, you would think, by looking at those dark marks left on the skin, that cupping would cause pain rather than alleviate it. This is not actually the case. Cupping does not need to cause pain in order to be effective.
Many dismiss cupping as a fad because it is being promoted by athletes and celebrities, but in China this “fad” has been going on for roughly 4000 years. Let’s look at how cupping works and why you may want to consider it the next time you experience musculoskeletal pain.
Cupping stimulates the recovery and repair response of the body, including improving circulation of lymph and blood and reabsorption of injured tissue and excess fluids. The suction of the cups causes another very mild injury, just enough so the body pays attention to the area, but not so much that there is new, unhealthy inflammation that the tissues can’t recover from. You could compare the process with allergy shots; introducing a small irritant allows the body to accept the substance more readily and react in a healthy manner. The body then has time to adjust and correct.
Cupping is considered to be a Chinese Folk Medicine practice and hence its use is based on a completely different understanding of health maintenance. Our bodies are programmed to pay attention to and repair any injury or disruption that occurs. No matter how large or small, the body knows what its optimal state of health is and will always try to correct the problem. By stimulating the tissues to begin the repair process through the minor irritation of cupping, fresh blood and fluids are brought to the area, creating a deeper healing. The body then knows not to react unless the stimulus reoccurs in a big way. By reinstating the healthy vibration of the effected tissues, the damage is repaired and the body “remembers” how to work most efficiently, facilitating an improvement in overall health, not just the removal of the immediate problem.
Cupping requires a completely individualized treatment approach for achieving the best results. Different schools of thought recommend different ways of applying cups. Some people need more suction, some people need less. Similarly, some people need the cups to stay in one place while others need them moved around. Some need to have a small amount of blood drawn during cupping, and others can’t tolerate even minimal pressure on a cup. These treatment methods may seem inconsistent, but it is because they are individualized, the hallmark of Chinese medicine. There is no one-size-fits-all in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as there seems to be in Western Medicine. This is why, when it comes to creating research studies, it is often very hard to make Chinese Medicine fit into the western way of determining efficacy.
The bottom line is that billions of people over thousands of years have used Oriental Medicine in its many different forms to maintain their health and resolve health issues with extremely good results. It continues to be used today in Asia side-by-side with modern health practices such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and many other applications. You need to fly a LONG time to witness this, but you can see this dynamic relationship in action in China, Vietnam, Korea and many another Asian countries.
Further study is needed, but it is obvious from its growing popularity and rich tradition in Asia that cupping has a place in the modern clinic. Curious if cupping will work for you? Start with this in-depth study of cupping that concludes that it is great for some types of pain, amongst other things: https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-10-70.
Call today to set up an appointment for an individualized treatment tailored just for you.