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. One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and which dates all the way back to 300 AD. 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, 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 10 to 15 minutes while the patient relaxes. Although cupping is not painful, the recipient commonly walks away with circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. The bruises caused by the procedure are thought to be the negative energy elements coming to the surface and exiting the body. A healthy energy flow is thought to improve both the physical can mental well-being of the client. This is similar to the practice of Tui Na, a traditional Chinese medicine massage technique that targets acupuncture points as well as painful body parts, and is well known to provide relief through pressure (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure).
Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, helped improve range of motion to injured areas, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area. Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on the 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. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to "open" these channels ~ the paths through which life energy flows freely throughout the body, through all tissues and organs, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force).
Cupping is one of the best deep tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected materials. Even hands, wrists, legs and ankles can be "cupped," thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points. 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.
The clients who experienced this pain relief reported that the effects lasted longer than the pain relief associated with other massage modalities.