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 is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, and rheumatism. 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.
There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Once the suction has occurred, 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.