What is cupping?

Cupping therapy is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is used for many skin or muscular conditions. It is a form of alternative medicine where a therapist puts cups on your skin to cause a suction and increase blood flow to the site. The therapy helps with pain, inflammation, swelling, and promotes relaxation of the injured area.

In Canada, the most common treated area for cupping therapy is the back. However, it can also be used on the legs, arms, chest, and shoulders.

There are different types of cupping techniques. The most common technique used is dry cupping.

Cupping Techniques

  • Dry cupping.This technique is done with glass cups. A cotton swab is lit on fire, swirled around the inside of the cup and quickly removed. The therapist then quickly places the cup on the client’s skin. The fire removes the oxygen in the cup before it is placed on the client’s skin, creating a suction effect.
  • Cupping with manual pump.This technique is normally done using plastic cups, but glass can also be used as well. It is done using a pump that hooks to the top of the cup. The therapist places the cup in the desired location. The pump is then used to suck the air out of the cup, creating the suction. This can allow for different levels of suction (ex. one pump = light suction, two pumps = medium suction, three pumps = strong suction and so on).
  • Moving cupping.Once the cup is placed on the skin, after having applied oil or lotion, the therapist can gently slide the cup along the affected area. This combines both massage therapy and cupping to cause a myofascial release.
  • Silicone cupping.This uses flexible silicone cups. The cup is popped inside out, placed on the client and released on the skin to create a suction effect. This type of cupping often causes the least amount of bruising.