What is Cupping?

Written by: DrTonyWillcox | Nov 6, 2019
Anhui Hospital 
Anhui University of Chinese Medicine
Dr. Tony Willcox PhD. in China performing cupping for facial paralysis

Cupping is a valuable tool in the arsenal of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). This therapy has been practiced for over three thousand years and is widely used today all around the globe. The term cupping is applied to a technique that uses cups made of various materials such as; Bamboo, Glass, Plastic, and Silicone.

How does it work?

The glass cup is applied to the skin and in the case of fire cupping. A fire applicator is applied inside the cup for a second or two. This fire burns the available oxygen inside and is then quickly removed and applied to the skin surface. This suction mechanism pulls the skin underneath and into the cup. This has the effect of invigorating circulation and promoting the release of endorphins (feel good) chemicals to cascade throughout the body. This brings feelings of well being, pain relief and increase function and range of motion.

How is this therapy used in China?

Chinese hospitals have therapies such as acupuncture, cupping and herbal medicine alongside western medicine and are a standard form of practice. The common name for Cupping in China is Ba Guan or Huo Guan translated to Fire Cups and is usually practiced with fire, hence the term fire cupping. Some practitioners may also prefer the suction pump which attaches to the valve of the plastic or glass cup, without the need for fire.

Marks from cupping can be used diagnostically in relation to dysfunction of Qi & Blood - a Chinese Medicine concept
The marks after cupping determine the blood quality including pain and dysfunction.

Why Cupping?            

The suction of this therapy causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be drawn into the apparatus. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage; rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle or strong pressure to pull the musculature and body tissue and fluids upward forcing circulation through tight and unresponsive muscles. The suction and negative pressure provided by the cups can loosen tight muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate or invigorate the nervous system, dependent on the techniques applied. Patients find cupping to be a particularly relaxing and relieving of tension.

Cupping also regulates the nervous system by decreasing stress and tension. Once applied, the glass cups stay in place for anywhere from five to twenty minutes.

What does it feel like?

Patients often describe feeling relaxed and peaceful. Initially, there can be slight to moderate pressure.

Often patients are reminded that the cupping feels like they have an octopus on their back. It is an interesting sensation. Patients often describe the sensation of bad energy being taken out of the body and good energy being restored and improving their health and well-being.

Like acupuncture, cupping can also follow the lines or pathways of the meridians. Cups are placed over certain points on the meridians to help increase the flow of qi (life force), as well as improve the circulation of blood, lymph, and other vital body fluids.

Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available; toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed due to micro and microcirculation effects. Much like getting massage can reinvigorate your system, so can this therapy, but in a different way.

Cupping therapy under infrared light
Cupping under infrared heat lamp

What are the benefits?           

Cupping has a multitude of benefits, one of the most obvious being the relaxation of stiff muscles and tendons; as well as relieving any pain in the affected areas.

Cupping is used to treat anxiety, fatigue, digestion issues, migraines, rheumatism, pain, frozen shoulder, respiratory issues, colds, as well as boosting skin health. 

Extensive use of cupping is utilized to improve sports performance and wellness within the professional athlete world too! Remember Michael Phelps and his cupping marks at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. NBA Stars such as LeBron James and the myriad of UFC Fighters that use this therapy as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Is it for Everyone?

Dr. Tony treated athletes in the TV Show “The Ultimate Fighter” the Blackzilians vs American Top Team over the tenure of the television show. The common denominator for the Blackzilian’s recovery was not only acupuncture but also cupping. This therapy not only works for the hardened and trained pro athletes but also, anyone who has a human body!

We all have tightness and stiffness from time to time, whether your a CEO or a Homemaker or anyone in-between. Functioning optimally is important.

The body is an energy system. Energy can get blocked due to various factors such as; as emotional, mental, spiritual imbalance, injury, and so on. This therapy is a sure-fire way to move the energy of the body and improve your wellness.

Don’t let the limitations of your mind deter you from experiencing this wonderful treatment modality.

Come and experience cupping with Dr. Tony Willcox Ph.D.


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