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March 30, 2010

Cupping 101

Cupping 101: a brief history

Sixteen hundred years ago in China a famous herbalist by the name of Ge Hong wrote about a method of treating patients through the application of suction cups or cupping in his book A Handbook of Prescriptions. Later books written during the Tang and Qing dynasties described cupping in great detail; one textbook included an entire chapter on “fire jar qi,” a type of cupping that could alleviate headaches, dizziness and abdominal pain.

Over the centuries, cupping has been discovered to be an effective method of treatment for ailments such as:

Cupping 101: the technique

For a practitioner to obtain a therapeutic amount of suction on the body, most find it necessary to do what's called “fire cupping”. Fire cupping is done by soaking a cotton ball on the end of a hemostat in rubbing alcohol, lighting it of fire, and placing the fire up inside of the cup to burn out the oxygen thus creating a vacuum. With the formation of a temporary vacuum inside the cup, the practitioner quickly removes the cotton ball and places the cup on to a predetermined area on the body. The application of suction to the body pulls the skin up inside the cup which increases blood flow to the area and can pull toxins out of the tissues. To increase the therapeutic efficacy of cupping, practitioners will either use numerous cups or apply a liniment to allow the cup to smoothly slide across the skin.

Cupping is generally used on parts of the body where there is lots of muscle and connective tissue, such as the back, legs, or shoulders. It is not used on areas affected by skin disease, on bony areas such as the hands, feet, and face, or on the abdomen or lower back of pregnant women due to the risk of causing a miscarriage.

Modern day cups are made out of glass because they are easy to clean, and the practitioner can see through them and closely monitor their technique. Historically cups were made of bamboo, animal horns, or earthenware. Bamboo is still used today by some practitioners, but horns are not used due to animal protection laws and advancements in technology.

Cupping 101: the results

Cupping is considered relatively safe although it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin due to the nature of the procedure. Typically patients have a series of faint circular bruises that feel like a mild skin burn for a day or two. Depending upon the diseased state being treated and the intensity of the treatment, some patients have bruises that look like they lost a wrestling match to an angry octopus. This type of result occurs most commonly in people who have a lot of tension in their back from either traumatic injury or years of carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders. Regardless of the intensity of the bruises, they tend to last for 1-2 weeks and heal faster if the patient is diligent about keeping themselves warm, covered up, and well hydrated.

Cupping can be a great way to augment an acupuncture treatment. It can increase the therapeutic effects of acupuncture needles and help you heal faster.

If you are interested in cupping and think that it would aid in the treatment of your health concerns the please call Mountain Spirit Acupuncture at 303.929.7334 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.  Be well.

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