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Cupping Therapy is performed by applying cups to the skin and creating pressure, either by heat or by suction, for health promotion


An Introduction to Cupping

Cupping therapy is an ancient technique of healing performed by applying cups to selected skin points and creating pressure, either by heat or by suction. It has been used for health promotion, preventive, and therapeutic purposes.


What is cupping therapy?

Cupping consists of placing the cups to reduce pressure by heat and suctions, which is said to remove toxic substances and improve blood flow. Tools for cupping included animal horns, metal, and bamboo cups in early practices, which were later replaced with glass, rubber, plastic and silicone cups.

A practitioner will place the cup on the skin, usually on the back, neck and shoulders. Some forms of cupping therapies include the placement of cups on other parts of the body as well, such as the face, legs, and feet. The aim is to create suction, either by heat, electric suction instruments or creating a vacuum. The skin and the superficial muscles are drawn in and the skin may change colours as the blood vessels change due to a change in pressure.

Cups are either placed on the body and left there for around 5-10 minutes or moved around in a way that resembles a deep tissue massage. Another option is wet cupping, where a practitioner draws a small amount of blood with a sterile needle and then places the cup on the skin.


Where did cupping therapy originate?

Cupping therapy dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

How can Cupping benefits you?

Cupping therapy has been used for health promotion, preventive, and therapeutic purposes for hundreds of years.

People who use Cupping find the benefits to be wide-ranging including:

  • Improve muscle strength and tone
  • Gut health
  • Body detox
  • Improve mental wellbeing
  • Manage stress
  • Find relaxation

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Further Reading / Cupping Studies

More and more studies are being conducted into the health benefits of Cupping. While they are yet to be conclusive, preliminary findings are very promising, however, you should always seek medical advice before practising.


Muscle or joint pain 

A study paper in the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Trusted Source found some evidence to suggest that cupping may reduce pain. A meta-analysis that appears in the journal Revista Latina-Americano De Enfermagem Trusted Source claims that there may be evidence for cupping being effective in treating back pain.


Blood pressure 

In this randomized controlled trial, There were two groups (40 participants each): an intervention group undergoing wet-cupping (hijama) in addition to conventional hypertension treatment, and a control group undergoing only conventional hypertension treatment. Three wet-cupping sessions were performed every other day. The study found evidence of immediate reduction of systolic blood pressure after wet-cupping treatment.



In this pre-post research design, 70 patients with chronic tension or migraine headache were treated with wet cupping. Results found compared to the baseline, headache severity decreased by 66% following wet-cupping treatment. Treated patients also experienced the equivalent of 12.6 fewer days of headache per month. Another randomized controlled trial over the course of two years found that wet cupping reduced pain and disability in patients with migraine, and the efficacy increased when the application was continued.


Minor inflammation

This study proved cupping to be a good analgesic and anti-inflammatory with efficacy better than acetaminophen. Thus, cupping can be recommended for other painful conditions besides being a line of treatment for osteoarthritis. In this review, a single study was conducted in China that investigated the combined effects of cupping and herbal medicine in comparison to the use of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in acute gouty arthritis. The investigators reported that the therapeutic effects of both cupping and herbal medicine were comparable to NSAIDs.



This study reported that cupping therapy was more effective than usual care in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome after 18 days from treatment in terms of reduction in pain intensity and improvement in quality of life.



This study done on postpartum depression in a group of women showed that postpartum anxiety decreased in both interventional groups but in the cupping experimental group, the reduction was significant. Therefore, it is used as an effective treatment in reducing anxiety after childbirth.


Neck and back tension
A 2015 review found that cupping may provide some relief for chronic neck or back tension, but suggested further evidence is required to draw firm conclusions.

How is Cupping therapy performed?

There are many cupping techniques used across various medicine systems like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) or Unani medicine.


Methods of suction

The classification is based on the method used to create the negative pressure inside the cups. They are fire, manual vacuum, electrical vacuum, needle, hot or moxa, herbal, laser, water, electric stimulation and aquatic cupping.



Cupping therapy locations on the body are selected according to the treated ailment. The back is the most common place of application, followed by the chest, abdomen, buttocks, and legs. Other areas, such as the face, may also be treated by cupping. Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used and where.




Dry cupping

Traditionally, the practitioner would heat up the cup by putting paper, alcohol, or herbs in it and igniting it. Once the fire fades, they will place it on the skin for a couple of minutes, creating a vacuum in the cup as it cools down. It will draw the skin inside, causing the blood vessels to expand. Modern methods replace heat with pumps that create a vacuum.  Dry cupping can be performed daily, and the level of suction can be adjusted between light, medium and strong.


Wet cupping

This form of cupping, usually performed after several minutes of dry cupping, skin is pierced, and the blood is drawn out during the suction process. According to the TCM, it is said to remove toxins from the body. It is advised to avoid eating for 2-3 hours before the wet cupping and limit the physical activity afterwards.


Flash cupping

Flash cupping is also known as empty cupping. It involves performing quick suctions of medium to light pressure over the targeted area. The cup is applied for a very short time of fewer than 30 seconds to stimulate the area. It can be done by using only one cup or four medium-sized cups. This method can be used in situations where dry cupping is not recommended.


Massage cupping

Massage cupping is also known as moving cupping, dynamic cupping, and gliding cupping. It is performed by applying oil over the skin and moving the cups over the treated area by using weak suction. Different types of oils are used such as olive oil, peppermint oil, and lavender oil.

What to expect from a Cupping session?

What to expect from a Cupping session?

Before the treatment, the practitioner should explain to you the benefits of cupping and what to expect during the treatment. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any doubts and questions.

Cupping is famous for the marks that stay on the body after the session, although in some cases they may not occur. Depending on the treatment, they fade away in 1-2 days or stay as long as 15 days.

Cupping should not hurt, but you will experience the pulling sensation that happens when the skin is drawn in the cup. The number of cups used can vary from treatment to treatment – the first time only one can be used, but the general amount of cups per session is 5 -12.

It is recommended to rest after the cupping session, instead of performing some high-intensity activities like running or going to the gym.

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Medical concerns

Holistic disciplines can assist you in your wellbeing, though they are not a substitute for medical care. This information should be used as a guide only to help you explore which holistic disciplines may assist you. We recommend researching the discipline and speaking with a practitioner before choosing to book any service.

This information is not, nor is it intended to be used as a medical diagnosis. Any information provided must be considered as guidance only, and not a substitute for obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional. Please see the full terms and conditions of use. Always consult your doctor for any medical concerns.