Cupping therapy is a traditional medicine followed in ancient cultures for relieving pain and other symptoms using cups placed on specific positions on the skin to create suction. The reduced pressure under the skin helps to draw and hold the skin under the cup. Experts in this alternative therapy believe that this method improves the blood flow to the region and activate the lymphatic system helping in healing the diseases. Cupping is done in specific pressure points in the skin which has been affected by the ailment. Cups used in this method can be made of earthen ware, bamboo, or glass.
Cupping therapy is of two basic types – wet cupping and dry cupping. In dry cupping, the skin and muscles are drawn and held by suction, while in wet cupping, suction is accompanied by medicinal bleeding in a regulated manner. During this therapy, a flammable material is placed in a cup and set on fire. As it burns out, the cup is inverted and placed on the skin creating suction. Vacuum created in this region helps in the expansion of the blood vessels. The time for which the cups are left in the place depends on the ailment can last up to 15 minutes.
In the latest version of this therapy, glass cups fitted with pumps are used. The hand operated pump allows creating suction within the cup in a more controlled manner without using fire. The cups can also be moved over the skin when the suction is active. It gives a massage effect and is called as gliding cupping. Oil is applied to the skin to make the movement easy. These oils are often infused with herbs and other medicinal substances.
In wet cupping, the cups are left in specific points for a short period of time and then removed. Small incisions are made on the superficial layer of the skin and suction is applied again to draw the blood. To prevent infections antibiotics are applied on the incisions after the therapy. Cupping therapy is supposed to take out the toxins from skin and help in rejuvenating the body.
Ailments that can be treated with cupping therapy include:
- Respiratory disorders
- Blood disorders
- Skin problems
- Anxiety and depression
- Varicose veins
- Rheumatic diseases
Although this therapy is found to be safe, in most cases, it seems to have few side effects, like skin bruises, burns, and discomfort. It should be done only by a trained health professional to avoid any complications. Cupping therapy is not suggested for deep vein thrombosis, ulcers, and bone fractures.