Since the Rio Olympics started “Cupping” has been a buzz word thrown around almost daily. Made popular by Olympic athletes, specifically swimmers, cupping is get some well-deserved notoriety. Cupping therapy has actually been around since about 1000 B.C. and has been a popular Chinese Medicine practice. Cupping therapy is an alternative therapy, akin to acupuncture, that offers some great health benefits without the harmful side effects mainstream medicine and pharmaceuticals pose to your body.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a therapy in which heated cups are applied to the skin creating suction as a way of stimulating the flow of energy. Cups can be made of various materials, most common are glass and bamboo, and the cups are typically applied along the meridian of the body.
Cupping is a simple process, but provides the body with numerous health benefits. The procedure is fairly simple. The therapist will use a substance, most will use various different herbs, to set on fire and place in the cup. As the flame goes out, the therapist will place the cup upside down on the skin. This creates a vacuum inside the cup and will slowly pull the skin upwards into the cup. Once the skin has fully risen in the cup, the therapist will leave the cup in place for about three minutes.
Each session is different, but just like any training someone would do, cupping is something you build on. Your first session will have anywhere from three cups to five cups and as you continue with the procedure you can add more cups for added benefits.
What Does Cupping Actually Do?
As mentioned above, cupping creates a vacuum and pulls your skin upwards. This will cause your skin to redden and expand your blood cells. The expanded blood cells help stimulate blood flow to help with recovery and when positioned right can be used to help treat various conditions.
Benefits of Cupping
Cupping has been used for various different conditions that people suffer from. The British Cupping Society lists several common conditions they use cupping for:
- Migraines and headaches
- Anemia and hemophilia
- Varicose veins
- High blood pressure
- Sore muscles
- Muscles aches and cramps
- Acne and eczema
Below are the five main reasons people use cupping:
This is the most common use for cupping and the use made most popular by athletes. Reducing muscle pain and fatigue by stimulating blood flow and decreasing recovery time is the most appealing benefit to athletes. An Olympic athlete, like Michael Phelps, that competes in multiple Olympic events, will want to decrease the amount of time it takes his body to regain energy and be fully ready to go by the time the next event starts.
However, the benefits are not just for athletes. Joint and back pain have been lowered by cupping. Cupping acts almost like a deep tissue massage and relaxes muscles associated with joint pain. Cupping targets soft tissue by applying pressure to specific pain points and areas of swelling. As the blood vessels expand the tissue receives extra nutrients and oxygen created from the expanded blood vessels.
The other most common reason for cupping is relaxation. First and foremost, the actual procedure and environment is typically a relaxing event. Much like a massage, where you are laying in a calm, relaxing event, you do the same with cupping. As mentioned above, the cups target tense muscles and acts as a deep tissue massage, releasing the tension from the deepest parts of your body. It has also been shown to help lower stress responses, which in turn can lower an individual’s anxiety and help fight depression.
Linked closely to the relaxation benefit, your digestive health can be improved by cupping. One of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy digestive track is stress on your body, specific your digestive tract. Along with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is closely linked to a stressed digestive tract, cupping has been used for stomach pains, diarrhea, gastritis and other common digestive issues. Flowing the energy to help release tension in and around the digestive tract, while aiding the abdomen with added nutrients and oxygen can help stimulate a healthier digestive tract.
The most common skin issues cupping has been used for is acne, skinflammation and even herpes. Your capillaries are expanded by cupping and the addition flow of blood helps tone your skin and clear unwanted toxins from the skin to help get rid of acne. Also, wet cupping, where a small cut is made before the cup is applied can reduce acne better because with the incision the therapy can extract more of the toxins from your body.
Cupping has also been used for cellulite and varicose veins. An increased flow of blood throughout the skin will help tone and tighten the skin. Also, cupping stimulates and improves the flow of blood, helping reduce varicose veins.
Cupping helps move fluid throughout the body. Mainly, cupping increases the flow of blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body. Both of these help your body protect itself from illnesses and toxins. Additionally, cupping can help extract and remove phlegm and congestion from your body.
The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove heat and pull out the toxins that linger in your body’s tissues. It is not something that everyone is aware of, but just like other Chinese Medicine practices, like acupuncture, it can be an effective and most importantly a natural way, to help treat several conditions and help improve your body’s overall health and function.