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Cupping Therapy: Procedure, Benefits, and Side-effects

By Anand Dubey March 10, 2021

Cupping Therapy: Procedure, Benefits, and Side-effects

Cupping Therapy, also known as Hijama, is an ancient healing therapy used for thousands of years. It is a form of Traditional and Chinese Medicine (TCM) to cure recurring pain in certain body parts. 

Therapists do this to ease the pain with the help of cups. A therapist places cups on several parts of the body such as the stomach, arms, back, or legs. The cups create suction which pulls the skin upward. It is one of the most effective ways to release the toxins from the body tissues and organs.

What is Cupping Therapy?

It is a technique where small glass cups or bamboo jars act as suction devices. Therapists place the cups on the affected areas of the body to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion. It works by drawing congested blood, or energy to the surface.

Therapists use glass cups for this therapy. The other cups used in the therapy are:

  • Plastic Cups
  • Bamboo Cups
  • Ceramic Cups
  • Metal Cups
  • Silicone Cups

Types of Cupping Therapy

Cupping is done by different techniques. The major types are-

Wet Cupping

In wet cupping, the skin is punctured and blood is drawn out in the suction process before the cups are placed.

In case of wet cupping, honey is applied to fix the cups as well as for the skin scarification, hence enhancing the process of healing. 

Dry Cupping

In dry cupping, the bottom of a glass cup is rinsed with methylated spirits, set alight, and placed over the skin. The flame stops the supply of oxygen, which causes a partial vacuum and the skin is sucked inside the glass.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Faster Pain Relief

Cupping can help in relieving recurring pains caused due to problems such as arthritis, lower back pain, etc. It also cures headache, dental pain, muscle pain, sciatica, etc.

Cupping increases blood circulation and mobility. This makes it an effective treatment for conditions like rheumatism, stiff neck, and shoulders.

Keeping the Skin Healthy

Cupping improves the blood flow in the skin and also increases the supply of oxygen and required nutrients for healthy skin. It also helps in reducing the relapse of acne and other skin diseases like eczema. 

Cupping therapy also helps in the expansion of the blood vessels to facilitate blood flow and also remove toxins from the surface of the skin.

Reduces Fatigue & provides relaxation

Cupping acts as massage and provides relaxation to the body. This makes it an effective treatment for reducing fatigue. 

Relief from Lung Diseases

Cupping is an effective remedy for treating lung disorders like asthma, bronchial congestion, chronic cough, and pleurisy.

Relieves Digestive Problems

Cupping helps provide relief in digestive problems caused due to malnutrition, chronic stress, or poor response of the immune system.

Healing Urinary Diseases

Cupping therapy can be used for treating urinary diseases such as urine retention, kidney stones, and abscess. Urine retention is also treated by placing the cups in the lumbar region.

Faster healing

Cupping increases the blood flow in the areas that need healing. The increased blood flow and energy also assists in faster healing.

Procedure of Cupping Therapy

During the procedure, a cup is placed on the skin, which is heated, or suction is created onto the skin. The cups to be placed are heated in fire using herbs, alcohol, or paper. These are directly placed into the cup. After the cup is heated, it is placed on the skin with the open side touching the skin.

Practitioners following modern cupping techniques use rubber pumps to create suction instead of traditional heating methods.

When the hot cup is placed on the skin, the trapped air inside the cup cools down and creates a vacuum. This draws the skin and muscle upward into the cup. The skin may turn red as a response to the change in pressure.

After the removal of the cups, the practitioner may cover apply ointment or bandages to the cupped areas. This is done to prevent infection. 

Cupping is also clubbed with acupuncture treatments. For best results, the patient may be asked to fast or eat only light meals 2-3 hours before a cupping session.

Pre- and post-procedure

  • Inform the patient properly about the procedure and what to expect post treatment.
  • It is essential to take the consent of the patient if required. 
  • Clean or disinfected the surface properly before performing the therapy.
  • Use new sterilized disposable needles/ surgical blades and disposable cups for wet cupping.
  • Check for skin abnormalities such as cracks, wounds, and temperature of the patient.
  • Therapists should check skin sensitivity.
  • Apply an antiseptic or moisturizer to prevent any possible infection after the procedure.
  • After hijama cupping, the dressing must be done.

Precautions of Cupping Therapy

  • Do not use it for inflamed or irritated skin. Do not perform it on or over arteries, veins, lymph nodes, eyes, or any fractures.
  • Avoid the therapy in pregnancy. Children, older adults, and people with certain health conditions should also stay away from cupping. 
  • People who are on blood-thinning medication should not get cupping therapy.

 Side-effects of Cupping Therapy

  • Cupping causes circular discolorations (usually fade in a few days or weeks). The side effects include pinching experienced during skin suction. 
  • Hijama may cause several problems such as burns, dizziness, nausea, swelling, and pain.
  • It also causes light-headedness, fainting, sweating, and skin pigmentation. 
  • It can also cause some rare adverse effects such as blisters, iron deficiency anemia, acquired hemophilia A, thrombocytopenia, and skin pigmentation. Infection, scarring, and blood loss may also occur with wet cupping.

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