Cupping is an ancient tradition that dates back to 1000 BC where practitioners in China would use cupping as a method of expeling the body of toxins. It is a safe, non-invasive and an inexpensive technique that has been used throughout the centuries to treat colds, lung infections and problems within internal organs.  

When toxins or cell waste stagnate in the muscles,  the body has a difficult time disposing the waste causing the body to experience discomfort. The stagnation can be caused by a number of different reasons, poor circulation in a localized area, Qi (energy) blockage or an injury that never fully healed. When the liver and kidneys aren't able to process these insults to the system and excrete them correctly, the toxins are put in storage to be handled at a later time -- usually housed in the muscular level. The vacuum action of cupping quickly facilitates the release of rigid soft tissues, stimulates the peripheral nervous system, loosens and lifts connective tissue, breaks up and drains stagnation. It also has the ability to increase blood and lymph flow to the skin, muscle and connective tissue. 

Cupping draws stagnant blood and other fluids that have fallen out of healthy circulation up to the skin and away from the injury to restore circulation to the affected area. It creates space for oxygen, living cells and nutrients needed for the healing process. The capillary system of the skin carries the toxins to the liver and kidneys where they are then metabolized and excreted. 

Is Cupping Useful?

  • Excellent Diagnostic Method

    • Cupping is useful to better understand whether your problem is a toxin build up, a muscle spasm, or an injury. Nerve or bone issues do not produce a significant color change on the skin. Cupping creates what TCM practitioners like to call "cupping marks" which are an excellent tool for mapping locations of pain and dis-ease. As a practitioner I observe the picture the marks create on your back and observe the indications of your internal pain and dis-ease.

  • Helps Detox

    • Symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy and headaches can be symptoms of toxicity overload in the body that your body is trying to manage. Those who have been on medication long term need to head caution when cupping as the suction will move dormant substances that have been locked in the joints and muscles and you want to ensure your liver can properly cleanse the waste cupping is removing.

  • Demonstrates Exact Problem Location

    • Since cupping is done on a larger area than the localized pain to guarantee everything is covered the areas with the most significant amounts of stagnation will have the deepest color. 

  • Cupping Marks Tell Us How Severe the Problem Is

    • The different colors that can occur when cupping are indicators to me where your problem is more severe and where I should concentrate the cups. Moderate blockages cause the skin to become pink or red while severe stagnation will produce a deep purple, deep blue or even black mark. 

What are Cupping Marks?

Cupping marks are not cupping bruises. There is a common misconception that the cupping process causes these deep scarlet and purple "bruises" when in fact it is not a bruise at all. The more coldness and pain one has, the darker (blue and purple) the marks are. The mark is a meaningful indication that some variety of pathogen(s) has been brought to the surface by the drawing power of the the cupping instrument. This does not mean that if there is no mark it doesn't have therapeutic benefits.

Some instances in which cupping marks are not produced include performing a light form of cupping massage for relaxation, restoring vitality and spirit after illness or emotional distress with soft cupping to achieve a similar effect to light massage.

This patient had extreme wind cold in the neck and shoulder region which caused blood stagnation creating the purple cupping marks displayed above.

There are several different marks that can be left on the body after cupping such as;

  • Black, Deep Purple or Deep Blue: Indicates blood stagnation. It can occur when an injury or illness (including strong coldness inducing blood stasis) has resided in the body for a long time Wind with cold can also manifest as a dark mark.
  • Fresh Red Color: Indicates a recent traumatic injury with accompanying heat
  • Light Pink or Light Blue: Indicates mild coldness.
  • Small Red Dots: Indicates release of heat toxins.
  • Pale or White Mark That Fades Quickly (No Mark): Indicates lots of energy and function (Qi).

How Long Do the Marks Last?

Even the darkest marks will be less intense after 24 hours. In most cases, the marks will vanish after 7 days. If a cup is applied with intense pressure, for a longer duration the mark can last 10 or more days. If the pathogenic "evil" has been with you for a longer time that can also cause it to last longer. Therefore, before deciding on cupping you should look over  your social calendar as the marks may or may not be gone before your event. 

Once a mark is close to resolution or completely disappeared is when its the appropriate time for reapplication of a cup on the same site and a follow-up visit should be scheduled.

Prepare For Cupping Sessions

Below are a few tips to take into consideration before coming in for a cupping session:

  • Eat prior to your session. If you do cupping on an empty stomach it may cause dizziness or nausea.
  • Know your upcoming social schedule. Cupping marks can last anywhere from a few hours to 10 or more days. Its difficult to predict what can happen especially if it's your first time so its best to be safe and not get a cupping session done before your sister's wedding or your scheduled vacation.
  • Bring a clothing to cover the area where you were cupped. Following the session you will want to ensure exposure is kept to a minimum. You should bring a sweater, scarf or some type of coverup.

After Treatment Care

As with all things, everyone reacts to treatments differently so its important to give your body a chance to heal after the experience. Some can feel like they can run a marathon after treatment while others are fatigued, experience nausea and even mild dizziness. The following are a few tips to consider after your treatment;

  • Keep the cupped area covered. Because cupping opens the surface of the body, extreme temperature (especially cold or wind) can trigger the muscles to go into a spasm. You need to keep the area protected, warmed, covered and avoid hot baths or cold showers.
  • Drink plenty of water. Toxins have been released back into your system when you do a cupping treatment, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids (water, ginger tea, etc.) to help your body flush them out.
  • Avoid alcohol or other toxic substances for at least 48 hours after a cupping session. Your liver is already working double time trying to manage the toxins out of your body try not to add on any more work for your poor liver.
  • Take it easy! Although it is a lot easier said than done. Healing happens when we retreat and hibernate with ourselves. Try your best to avoid strenuous activity. Its ok to give yourself some time to unwind and relax.

 If you are still feeling discomfort after 3 days, contact me immediately so we can discuss herbal formulas that can help alleviate the discomfort either topically or orally.