| Cupping Session (1 hour)
Cupping treatment involves warming and placing cups, usually made of glass, on the skin. By warming the air within the cup, a vacuum is created, and when it is applied to the skin, the tissue is drawn up into the cup. This increases the blood flow, loosens the fascia or connective tissue, and is thought to stimulate healing. It is similar to the way deep tissue massage can be used to break up scar tissue and reduce pain. The cups are often placed on the back, neck, and shoulders or the site of pain.
Cupping may cause temporary bruising and soreness, depending upon the degree of suction created by the vacuum and the level of internal stagnation. According to TCM, this would be a favorable outcome, suggesting the treatment has successfully removed toxins and stagnation. The cups are removed by lifting one edge, which allows air in and breaks the seal and vacuum.
Different types of cupping are selected based on the treatment goals of the acupuncturist. There are also different types of cups. Most commonly, cups are made out of glass.
The classic cupping technique is called ba guan zi, which is fire or dry cupping. This involves placing the cup over an ashi (painful area) point or an acupuncture point along an energy meridian. The cups are left in place anywhere from five to 20 minutes depending on the nature of the individual's condition. A general course of treatment involves four to six sessions in intervals starting from three to 10-day gaps.
TCM teaches that it is the stagnation of qi and blood that causes pain and disease. Cupping invigorates local circulation of qi and blood in the area being treated, resolving swelling, pain, and tension. By drawing impurities to the surface, it removes toxins. From a Western physiology perspective, cupping loosens connective tissue or fascia and stimulated blood flow to the surface. Cupping stimulates tissue relaxation and better cell-to-cell communication.
The sliding cups technique is traditionally performed on large muscle groups of the back to treat pain and muscle spasms. Massage oil is applied to the skin prior to the cups being placed, which allows the cups to glide easily over the surface of the skin.
With air cupping, an alternative to fire cupping, a handheld suction pump is used to remove air from the cups, creating the vacuum without heat. Some clinical research from China suggests this innovation in cupping technology is more comfortable for patients.
Wet cupping combines an acupuncture technique called bleeding with cupping. A lancet is used to prick the skin before the cup is applied, which encourages a small amount of blood to flow from the area. This treatment is thought to dispel internal toxins. TCM practitioners in China use this technique for "cooling" inflammatory conditions.