What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping therapy is an ancient therapeutic practice that involves creating a negative pressure or suction on the surface of the skin. It was originally a practice of antiquitous civilisations of Ancient China and Ancient Egypt, dating as far back as 5000 years.

Cupping may also be known as myofascial decompression, horn therapy and vacuum therapy – it pretty much has a name in every culture or language in the world! For example; ventouse in French, ventosas in Spanish and Portuguese, banki in Russian and Polish, bekkam in Indonesian, JanJah in Swahili and Hijama in Arabic. Its linguistic presence in numerous languages and cultures across the globe is a testimony to its universal recognition as a therapeutic practice throughout time.

Just as its linguistic presence is diverse, so too is its variations in practice. There are multiple forms of cupping therapy, including fire cupping, static cupping, moving cupping, water cupping, massage cupping, wet cupping, dry cupping, flash cupping, facial cupping, blood cupping and more!

It can be argued that any application of suction on the skin surface is within the definition of cupping therapy. Yes – that does mean that a love bite would also come under this definition! As would breast pumps and the ventouse method of assisted child birth delivery

For the sake of simplicity, we are specifically referring to the dry, static form of cupping therapy. This is the most common and basic form which most people will be referring to when they say cupping therapy. Dry cupping therapy is also the treatment responsible for the round marks that are notably seen on sporting stars. These include Michael Phelps during the Olympics and other personalities such as Conor McGregor and even Justin Bieber.

How Does It Work?

Cupping therapy has been shown to simulate a strong parasympathetic response in your nervous system reducing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure and helping you relax. This is the opposite response to stress & initiates a deep state of relaxation.

Cupping draws fresh blood to areas of dysfunction within the body which stimulates a heightened healing response. By promoting healthy blood flow, cell metabolism and repair is increased and new connective tissue and blood vessels form.

The suction from cupping softens rigid soft tissue and dissolves adhesion which helps normalise muscle position. Cupping therapy also drains excess fluids and toxins, hydrates the joints, lifts and lengthen fascia and releases entrapment of peripheral nerves.

What Is Cupping and It’s Different Types?

Cupping therapy uses  cup-shaped vessels in which a suction is made and applied to the surface of the skin. In static cupping, the cup remains stationary in a single spot for a certain duration. This is not the case in other forms of cupping. The term “dry” refers to the procedure not intending to draw out any blood as in the case of wet cupping or hijama therapy

The method of creating a suction in any form of cupping therapy can be diverse. Fire or heat is quite often a preferred method for creating suction in the cups. In this case the practice can also be referred to as fire cupping.

The various types of cupping are sometimes named after the materials used (such as bamboo cupping, glass, plastic etc). Based on the method of application such as fire cupping and mechanical vacuum cupping etc. It can also take its name from the technique used in the cupping process. For example, such as moving cupping, flash cupping, active cupping or wet cupping.

To complicate things further; each one of these can be used in various combinations. A number of different technique applications include bamboo fire flash cupping, Glass fire moving cupping or plastic fire wet cupping. When describing the details of the therapy there is also no set order in which you would explain it. Have I lost you yet?

Thus when someone states they’ve had cupping therapy you could ask, “What type of cupping therapy?” “Was it the fire method? Mechanical vacuum? Or did the therapist use the old school oral suction?” The experience could have been varied by the cupping material used so you could ask “Did you have glass cups? Bamboo? Plastic or Silicone cups?”  That could follow with “Did you have static cupping, was it moving massage, active, flash or wet?” Or perhaps it could have been a combination of all of them.

Understanding The Clients Needs

You may now start to see that no one cupping experience will be the same. Another variable to consider is the strength of the suction cups (very strong, medium or light pressure). This will be dependent on the goals of the treatment. A skilled practitioner is able to adjust all the variables described in order to meet the needs of their client. This is based on a detailed understanding of their health needs and objectives of the session.

The objectives of the treatment could vary from general relaxation, to curative for specific issues, to restorative post training, to detoxification, to maintenance, to cosmetic all the way to fertility, mobility and more! The site, the context, the position of the tissues and patient all change the experience significantly.

To the onlooker it may sound rather confusing and possibly even a little unnecessary. However the complex variability of cupping therapy, its methods, materials and it techniques give it a very unique quality. It is an extremely versatile tool for any skilled practitioner who understands its properties. Thus applied in the right contexts and at the right times, to achieve maximal benefit to its recipients.

Those who truly master these skills and knowledge will recognise cupping as being the swiss army knife of the natural healing world. A small but extremely underestimated tool of health influencing versatility.

Are you interested in becoming a certified cupping therapy practitioner? You can signup to our ICAHT training. We offer online courses and live workshops.

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