Traditional Chinese medicine brings to mind acupuncture and the use of natural herbs as healing remedies. Cupping is a lesser-known treatment that is also part of Oriental medicine, one that can provide an especially pleasant experience. Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin. Once the suction has occurred (with the use of heat), the cups can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as "gliding cupping").
The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage - rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.
Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area.
This treatment is also valuable for the lungs, and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person's asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on one's back and these are where the cups are usually placed. Using these points, cupping can help to align and relax qi, as well as target more specific maladies.
For more information on the health benefits of cupping, please contact the director of clinical services at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine at (800) 729-0941, or visit www.PacificCollege.edu