Cupping therapy is used to mobilize blood flow to create healing. In Oriental medicine it is typically used to dispel stagnation in a particular area of the body.
The practitioner takes a small rounded glass cup, wipes the inside of the glass with alcohol, and then lights the alcohol on fire. Once the flame is extinguished (it usually only burns for a second) the cup is then quickly placed over an area of the skin, typically the back. The air inside the cup expands when it is heated. When the air begins to cool, it contracts and draws the skin slightly into the cup, creating suction. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body. This invigorates the blood, bringing new blood to the area and dispels the stagnation. Stagnation in an area can create sensations of pain. Cupping can be administered with stationary cups or with moving cups, depending on the situation and the location of the stagnation.
With moving cupping, oil is applied to the skin and the cup is slid along the surface of the skin without detaching suction. The sensation is very similar to deep tissue massage. Cupping can sometimes leave bruising or marks on the skin, depending on how long the cups are left on the skin and how deep the suction achieved. In “wet” cupping, the skin is punctured before treatment. When the cup is applied and the skin is drawn up, a small amount of blood may flow from the puncture site, which is believed to help the body remove harmful substances and toxins.