Originally called “horn therapy,” Cupping has been seen in many variations in countries such as Greece, France, Italy, Turkey, Eastern Europe and even as far as South America. Its long history of use in conjunction with acupuncture has been well documented; however, it is also used as a therapy in its own right.

Its primary purpose is to affect the flow of both Qi and blood through the body, dispelling cold dampness, and diminishing swellings and pains. A safe, non-invasive technique, Cupping is used to treat a myriad of conditions, like colds and flu, gastrointestinal disorders, upper respiratory infections and asthma, as well as problems related to the internal organs or back pain. Cupping has been in the media for its use in treating muscular pain, bone pain and spasms, particularly in the back and shoulders.

Cupping is a therapy in which a jar (glass, plastic, or bamboo) is attached to the skin’s surface. A burning cotton ball, held in forceps, is placed in and out of an inverted cup (glass, plastic or bamboo) to create a vacuum. When the oxygen in the cup is exhausted, the cup is placed directly onto the skin, where it is held in place by strong suction. Often, the skin inside the cup visibly rises with the suction. (There are also cups available that use manual hand pumping instead of the traditional frame to create the vacuum.) Multiple cups of various sizes are used to cover an area thoroughly. They may be left in place for several minutes, or removed quickly and placed elsewhere. Cups are sometimes placed over an acupuncture needle that has been inserted. Moving or sliding Cupping may also be performed, first by rubbing the skin with a small amount of oil, which enables the cups to slide easily. Acupuncturists may prescribe herbal remedies, dietary changes, and other health recommendations to support Cupping therapy.

While Cupping is considered painless, red marks, swelling, and bruises can appear since the treatment causes blood to be drawn to the surface of the skin. These marks typically disappear within a few hours or days.