Cupping is having its moment in the spotlight, witOlympians like Michael Phelps sporting the distinctive purplish-red circles across their backs, arms and legs. But what is cupping exactly, and how can it benefit you?

Cupping has been used in Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures for many centuries. In addition to acupuncture, it is one of the techniques used by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners to help restore balance in the body. While cupping is mostly known for alleviating muscular pain, it can also be effective in treating asthma and wheezing, as well as helping to expel colds and flus.

In the traditional method, fire is used to create a vacuum inside round glass cups that are then placed onto the skin. This creates a suction that promotes blood flow by bringing stagnated energy (Qi) and blood to the surface of the body to dissipate. Multiple cups can be left on the body to create a stronger pull (generating the reddish marks that typically fade within a week), cups can be placed and re-placed in rapid succession to invigorate the area, or with massage oil cups can be slid along the area creating a moving and continuous suction, similar to a deep massage.

Modern advances have created alternate tools that do not require the use of fire, including plastic cups with a hand pump, as well as silicone cups. In my clinic, I select either the traditional glass or silicone cups, depending on the client’s needs.

The treatment is not meant to be painful and the degree of suction can be easily adjusted; in fact, most clients find this treatment enjoyable and relaxing. Are you ready to give it a try?