Cupping, or Hijama, is a technique where small glass/bamboo cups are used as suction devices on the skin. This suction causes the skin and superficial muscle to gently lift up into the cup.
In this way, the therapy can be considered as an inversion of massage. Instead of applying a pressure downward on the muscles, cupping uses pressure upwards to lift the muscles. For many, this provides a relaxing sensation.
There are different ways to create this suction. The most common method involves using heat. The therapist may apply rubbing alcohol to the bottom of the cup, light it and then apply the heated cup directly on the skin.
The earliest record of Cupping therapy was in the Ebers Papyrus – one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world. The textbook describes how ancient Egyptians used the therapy in 1550 BC. Cupping is also used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What are the benefits Cupping Therapy?
There are many cupping benefits, ranging from relaxation and improved well-being to pain relief. The skin is the body’s largest organ, reflecting imbalances. It stands to reason therefore that therapies that target the skin reap great rewards.
The therapy can affect you both physically and mentally. This includes improving the flow of energy especially where cups on meridian points. It encourages detoxification by stimulating blood and lymph flow by increasing the supply of healthy, oxygenated blood to muscles and skin. This brings nourishment and allows toxins to be carried away by the lymph.
Cupping can be useful for relieving muscular pain as it loosens tissues and promotes healing. It beneficial for chronic conditions like fibromyalgia when used alongside medication and physical therapy.
The suction works to soften underlying muscle tissues and break up knotted areas. This leads to looser and more flexible muscles, relieving side effects like headaches and stress to neck and back pain.
Additionally, as the sensation is akin to a massage (especially in moving cupping), making it pleasurable and incredibly relaxing. It also has a sedating effect on the nervous system, making it useful in addressing high blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and tension headaches.
What does a typical Cupping session look like?
To begin you will have a consultation with your therapist to discuss the concerns you would like to address with the treatment. The therapist will then be able to assess where best to place the cups.
The back is the most common area. This is because it has five meridian lines which are optimal for cup placement. Other areas of the body can be used too, fleshy areas are preferred as they lend themselves well to suction.
Depending on the nature of the condition you are seeking help for, your therapist will leave the cups in place from five to 10 minutes. Usually several cups are placed at the same time. Some therapists may also apply medicated oils or herbal infusions to the skin, allowing the cups to be moved once applied.
How do I find a specialist that suits me?
In addition to Cupping, some therapists may also offer acupuncture within the same session. If this is the case, you should consider whether you would like just cupping, or both cupping and acupuncture in the same session.
You may wish to contact a few practitioners first to discuss the cupping they perform as this could be stationery or moving cupping, or additionally wet cupping which involves small incisions for bloodletting.