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Cupping

glass cups

Many people are interested in cupping therapy as it is one of the lesser known but much loved treatment techniques of traditional Chinese medicine. Cupping sometimes comes into the spotlight when athletes show large round bruises on their backs which can be the result of cupping. Despite the painful looks, cupping therapy does not hurt when done correctly and is extremely effective for treating pain, especially where the muscles are involved such as the back, neck and shoulders.

Cupping works by creating a local low-pressure vacuum over the surface of the body that is being treated through the use of a thick walled spherical jar with a rounded rim. This low pressure pulls the skin, muscles, connective tissues, and blood vessels into the cup causing increased circulation into the target tissues, restoring blood flow and stopping pain as well as moving out stuck lactic acid from over worked muscles and using other techniques, can help break adhesions in the fascial connective tissue sheaths that cover muscles and can become painful with overuse or injury. This suction feeling is for the majority of people very pleasant and often becomes one of their favorite treatments to receive. In Chinese medicine terms, cupping is able to move qi and blood, can be used for both tonification and sedation, and can also be used to release the surface, which is the way treatments for colds and flus

Cupping can be performed in a variety of ways. Most commonly employed is stationary cupping, in which the cup is placed over the area of the body that is being treated and left for 5-15 minutes depending on the patient, the condition and the desired effect. This is good for fixed pain that seems to stay in one place. Stationary cups are also used for cases of colds, flus, and coughs and are done on the back over the lungs and their corresponding acupuncture points. Stationary cupping can be enhanced with the use of acupuncture needles that are placed into the painful area before the cup is placed over the needle. This has a very strong effect and can be great for fixed pain. Additionally, stationary cupping can be combined with bloodletting techniques for persistent fixed pain. A diabetic lancet is used to pierce the skin on the painful area and then the cup is used to apply suction to the same tissues. Fixed pain is believed to be caused by a stagnation of blood, causing or caused by poor circulation, often due to traumatic injury. This technique allows old blood to be pulled out of the tissues and allow fresh blood to take its place. The blood that is removed this way is often thick and dark in contrast to the viscous bright red blood in healthy tissues. Also widely utilized is sliding cupping in which the surface of the skin is lubricated with an oil and then the cups are placed over the skin, the cups are then moved along the skin, often along the paths of the muscles being treated. This method is great for larger areas or when the pain moves across an area of the body. Finally, flash cupping is where the cups are placed on the body using a lower amount of suction and then rapidly removed and replaced, often in pairs, in quick repetitions. This method is often used along the back along a series of acupuncture points called the Back Shu points that correspond to each of the body’s organs. This is a tonification method used to strengthen the body.

In addition to the different methods of using cups, there are a wide variety of different styles of cups with different methods of obtaining the necessary suction.   Most commonly used are fire cups, which are made from a thick walled glass. These cups are used by using a 90% alcohol solution on a cotton ball which is lit on fire and briefly placed inside the cup to burn off the oxygen inside, producing and area of low pressure, before it is pulled out and the cup is placed on the skin. Suction style cups are also used. These are often made of a hard plastic and feature one-way valves and a hand pump to pull the air out of the cup after it has been placed on the skin. Less often used, but just as effective are bamboo cups. These are large cups made out of bamboo that are soaked in hot water until time for treatment. These are then removed from the hot water and placed over the skin, the cooling and evaporation of the water creates a pressure change that causes suction to occur. Bamboo cups also offer a versatility not found in other methods as herbal decoctions can be used in the hot water baths to add additional medicinal effects to the cupping treatments.

If you are in Aurora CO, Denver CO or any of the surrounding cities and are interesting in cupping therapy, acupuncture, or have any questions please do not hesitate to call or email me, I would love to speak with you!

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