CUPPING by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D.

, Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon Cupping refers to an ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (by using change in heat or by suctioning out air), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. In some cases, the cup may be moved while the suction of skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle (the technique is called gliding cupping). This treatment has some relation to certain massage techniques, such as the rapid skin pinching along the back that is an important aspect of tuina (12). In that practice, the skin is pinched, sometimes at specific points (e.g., bladder meridian points), until a redness is generated. Cupping is applied by acupuncturists to certain acupuncture points, as well as to regions of the body that are affected by pain (where the pain is deeper than the tissues to be pulled). When the cups are moved along the surface of the skin, the treatment is somewhat like guasha (literally, sand scraping), a folk remedy of southeast Asia which is often carried out by scraping the skin with a coin or other object with the intention of breaking up stagnation. Movement of the cups is a gentler technique than guasha, as a lubricant allows the cup to slide without causing as much of the subcutaneous bruising that is an objective of guasha. Still, a certain amount of bruising is expected both from fixed position cupping (especially at the site of the cup rim) and with movement of the cups. Traditional cupping, with use of heated cups, also has some similarity to moxibustion therapy. Heating of the cups was the method used to obtain suction: the hot air in the cups has a low density and, as the cups cool with the opening sealed by the skin, the pressure within the cups declines, sucking the skin into it. In this case, the cups are hot and have a stimulating effect something like that of burning moxa wool. In some cases, a small amount of blood letting (luoci; vein pricking) is done first, using a pricking needle, and then the cup is applied over the site. The pricking is usually done with a three-edged needle, applied to a vein, and it typically draws 3–4 drops of blood (sometimes the skin on either side is squeezed to aid release of blood). A standard thickgauge acupuncture needle or plum blossom needle may be used instead. This technique is said to promote blood circulation, remove stasis, and alleviate swelling and pain. It is employed especially when there is a toxic heat syndrome and for a variety of acute ailments. The following report is derived mainly from a survey of reported cupping techniques published in 1989 (1), supplemented by information from acupuncture text books (5–9). EARLY HISTORY

Since the cups are applied at room temperature. Ge Hong (281–341 A. during the Qing Dynasty. In a Tang Dynasty book. further. new glass cups were developed (see Figure 1). More recently. since the pottery cups broke very easily and the bamboo cups would deteriorate with repeated heating. The introduction of glass cups helped greatly. At the end of the 20th century. In it. some oil is applied. Glass cups were easier to make than the brass or iron cups that were sometimes used as sturdy substitutes for the others. In order to allow easy movement of the glass cups along the skin. and cold. Both liquid cupping and cupping over an acupuncture needle are favored for treatment of arthralgia. this method is called dijiufa (alcohol-fire cupping). The method was described in his book A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies. cupping has been known as jiaofa. see Figure 2). MODERN CUPPING During the 20th century. One of the traditional indications for cupping is dispelling cold in the channels. For example. Common drinking glasses have been used for this purpose. or liquid cupping. then rapidly apply to the skin. in alleviating headache of wind-cold type. as the edges are not entirely smooth and the strength of the cups is limited. but thick glass cupping devices have also been produced and are preferred. including invasion of wind.D. including an entire chapter on “fire jar qi” (huoquan qi). As a result of using horns. Necessities of a Frontier Official. The modern name for cupping is baguanfa (suction cup therapy). another method of suction was developed in which a valve was constructed at the top of the jar and a small hand-operated pump is attached so that the practitioner could suction out air without relying on fire (thus avoiding some hazards and having greater control over the amount of suction).The earliest use of cupping that is recorded is from the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist. using cups made of bamboo or pottery. bamboo cups would be boiled in an herbal decoction just prior to applying to the skin (this is one type of shuiguanfa. one could see the skin within the cup and evaluate the degree of response. For example. Both glass and plastic cups were developed. wrote Supplement to Outline of Materia Medica. ignite it. Medicated massage oils (with extracts of herbs) are particularly useful for this purpose. a small amount alcohol is put in the cup and lit. so-called because a liquid is incorporated into the treatment). Cupping also is thought to dispel cold by virtue of its ability to release external pathogenic factors. cupping was prescribed for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis (or a similar disorder). used for draining pustules. Zhao Xuemin. and abdominal pain. dizziness. Sometimes. bi syndrome of wind origin. he emphasized the value of this treatment. The glass cups are depressurized by providing some fire in the cup to heat up the air within just prior to placement. This indication is partly the result of applying hot cups. or the horn technique. though the plastic ones are not very well suited to moving along the skin once in place. this is called shanhuofa (flash-fire cupping.). in which the cups were actually animal horns. the indication of removing cold from the . hold it in the cup. The cups could be placed over acupuncture needles for these treatments. hold a cotton ball dipped in alcohol with a pincer. damp.

or easy bleeding (i. Respiratory Diseases • For chronic bronchitis and asthma. cupping is mainly recommended for the treatment of pain. gastro-intestinal disorders. one can apply cupping at the following points: dingchuan. the cup is left in place for about 10 minutes (typical range is 5–15 minutes). geshu (BL-17). The areas of the body that are fleshy are preferred sites for cupping. dashu (BL-11). such as the spine. For pediatric bronchitis: blood letting followed by cupping at dazhui (GV-14). convulsions or cramping.. fengmen (BL-12). There is some friction generated with moving cups. especially if a warming oil is used as lubricant. at least to stationary cups. cases of high fever. or the abdominal area or lower back during pregnancy. jueyinshu (BL-14).channels is no longer as applicable. huagai (CV-20). Following are some of the recommended treatment sites for various disorders. • • . dazhui (GV-14). For pediatric acute bronchitis: feishu (BL-13). Movement of the cups is limited to fleshy areas: the movement should not cross bony ridges. The skin becomes reddened due to the congestion of blood flow. lung diseases (especially chronic cough and asthma). [see: Acupuncture treatment of asthma for more information about several of these treatment sites]. shenchang (KI-25). Some bruising along the site of the rim of the cup is expected. and paralysis. Today. tiantu (CV-22).e. and zhongfu (LU-1). shenzhu (GV-12). Generally. lingxu (KI-24). feishu (BL-13). The cup is removed by pressing the skin along side it to allow some outside air to leak into it. shanzhong (CV-17). thus equalizing the pressure and releasing it. xinshu (BL-15). so that there is a small but significant amount of heat applied by that method. pathological level of low platelets). though it can be used for other disorders as well. Contraindications for cupping include: areas of skin that are inflamed.

along with needling local facial points. for toothache: dashu (BL-11). then do cupping). at the bladder meridian shu points. jiache (ST-6). guanmen (ST-22).Digestive Diseases • For dysentery. dazhui (GV-14) and baihui (GV-20) for parietal and occipital headaches. qihaishu (BL-24). geshu (BL-17). Pediatric indigestion: dachangshu (BL-25). Uterine cramps: needle zusanli (ST-36) and guanyuan (CV-4) and do cupping at guanyuan (CV-4). jiache (ST-6). Leukorrhea: yaoyan (extra point under the 3rd lumbar vertebra) and around baliao (BL-31 through BL-34). xiaguan (ST-7). early morning diarrhea. tianshu (ST-25). use plum blossom needling followed by cupping. and cupping at yifeng (TB-17). or these stomach meridian points: burong (ST-19). and hegu (LI-4). Loins: shenshu (BL-23). Facial paralysis: needling and cupping dazhui (GV-14). RECENT RESEARCH: . shenshu (BL-23). fengchi (GB-20). huaroumen (ST-24). massage. Miscellaneous • • • Common cold: dazhui (GV-14). sizhukong (TB-23). for trigeminal neuralgia: qihu (ST-13). perform cupping in the following areas: around the navel. and acute and chronic gastritis. with acupuncture. • Pain Syndromes • • • Shoulder blade: jianwaishu (SI-14) and tianzhong (SI-11). Insomnia: xinshu (BL-15). • Gynecological Disorders • • • Infertility and irregular menstruation: shenshu (BL-23) with movement of cup downward (treat with acupuncture first. Soft tissue injury: treat local pressure pain points and area of swelling. Head: taiyang and yintang for refractory headaches and migraines. guanyuanshu (BL-26). additionally or alternatively use points above or below the site of injury along the channels that pass through the injury.

f. sore throat. Frozen shoulder (3): after acupuncture at jianyu (LI-15) and jianliao (TB-14) to get propagated qi reaction. then xinshu (BL-15) and ganshu (BL-18) the next day.The following protocols were reported to provide good results in individual clinical research reports: a. e. d. Ten treatments is a course of therapy. Urticaria (11): perform cupping at shenque (CV-8) three times consecutively for ten minutes each time. Acute diseases (13): fever and headache due to infection. and another three days as needed. This is done for three days. . alternating treatments for a total of eight days. redness and soreness of the eyes. perform blood letting at dazhui (GV-14). Head pain (2): headache. lumbar sprain. treated with blood letting followed by cupping. c. and then cupping (which promotes further bleeding). Treatment is applied to dazhui (GV14) and dingchuan. use pricking of ashi points followed by cupping over the bleeding area for 10–15 minutes. b. Acute trigeminal neuralgia treating with blood letting followed by cupping (4): treatment is applied to dazhui (GV-14) and feishu (BL-13). Acne (10): treatment is to use bloodletting followed by cupping at feishu (BL-13) and geshu (BL-17) on one day. followed by one day rest. acute conjunctivitis. toothache.

Zhang Ruifu. 17(4): 272–274. 3. 6. State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy. O’Conner J and Bensky D (translators). volume IV. . WA. Illustrated Dictionary of Chinese Acupuncture. Zhang Zhilong. Sheep’s Publications. Wu Xiufen. Beijing. 13. Yin Ying. 2. Cupping is frequently applied after treatment by acupuncture. 17(3): 214–216. Chen Decheng. and Cong Xin. Jiang Nawei. Ju Huadong. and Nissi Wang (compilers). or plum blossom treatment. blood letting. with somewhat greater emphasis on the use of back points (due to the ease of performing this technique there). most practitioners rely on using back shu points (bladder meridian) and dazhui (GV-14). Treatment of urticaria with cupping. 7. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1997. 9(4): 240–242. Wang Huaiping. A survey of thirty years’ clinical application of cupping. 12. Observation of analgesic effect of acupuncturing dazhui point. 1975 Foreign Languages Press. International Journal of Clinical Acupuncture 1998. A miraculous spinal pinching therapy. Wu Jiashu. Cheng Xinnong. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1996. 13(3): 185– 186. 4. 10. Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. Cui Jin and Zhang Guangqi. 8. Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1989. Li Jiang. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1993. In particular. 11. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1997. Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology. Blood-letting at a single point for treatment of acute diseases. Beijing. 1997 New World Press. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Observation on therapeutic effects of blood-letting puncture with cupping in acute trigeminal neuralgia. 1986. 9(3): 151–154. 47 cases of acne treated by prickbloodletting plus cupping. Hong Kong. Seattle. 5. 16(3): 228–229. 1987 Foreign Languages Press. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1993. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1989. 30 cases of frozen shoulder treated by needling and cupping. 9(3): 327–328. REFERENCES 1. 1981 Eastland Press. An Outline of Chinese Acupuncture.TREATMENT SUMMARY Cupping therapies often follow the point selection pattern that is used for standard acupuncture therapy. 13(2): 105. 9. Beijing.

March 1999 Figure 1: Three types of cups. Figure 2: Flash-fire cupping. When should I NOT have cupping? .

Have some common sense.use 7-10 cups w/more suction for more time (5-10 minutes) . Cupping is not a silver bullet. But there are times when it is best NOT to have it. There are some rules you should follow. DO NOT GET CUPPED IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THESE CONDITIONS: High fever and/or convulsions Moderate to severe cardiomyopathy Hemophilia Generalized edema (swelling) Areas with skin ulcers or an unhealed wound Extreme debility with loss of skin elasticity Women during pregnancy Very young children or weak elderly people Cups should also not be used over thin muscles. Cares should be taken to avoid burning or scorching the skin. uneven bony structures or over extremely hairy areas. If the local congestion is severe after the removal of the cup. it is forbidden to perform cupping on the region again. retention of the cup should not be too long lest impairment of the skin be caused. edema as well as areas with large blood vessels. Cautions It should not be used in patients with high fever and convulsion. moles or other skin abnormalities GENERAL GUIDELINES: Deficient patient or weak pulse .It is important to note that cupping is a relatively non-invasive technique. • • • • • • • • • • • • PRECAUTIONS AND CONTRAINDICATIONS: Not on the abdomen/sacral area during pregnancy Not on contraindicated points Not on areas with an inflammed organ Not on inflammed areas in general (can cup distally a/or around it) Not on patients with cardiac disease a/or aneurysms Not on patients with extreme fatigue a/or anemia Not on patients who have just finished exercising or taking a hot bath or shower No sliding cups over the spine.use 2-3 cups w/less suction for less time (20 seconds to 2 minutes) Excess patient . As such you generally don't have much to worry about with it. allergic skin or skin ulcer and the abdominal and lumbosacral regions of the gravida.

GV 4. UB 13. GV 20 a/or ST 36 As always. can repeat up to 3 times • • • • • • • Disorders of the entire body . back day 2). communicate with the patient about the marks left by cupping. UB 20. UB 20 & ashi points Chronic Constipation Works very well if done on a daily basis (front day 1.• • • Removing Cups After removal perform 1 round of Chinetsukyu or use the tiger warmer on the cupped area If using pump cups clean them with alcohol. GV 3.perform cupping over the naval w/mild . UB 18. retaining for about 10 minutes .moderate pressure. retain for 2-3 minutes. UB 13. UB 37 & ashi "sensitive" points Dermatological disorders . retaining for about 10 minutes • • • Perform Bunshi Shiroda's total body treatment Cup the back points. but can also be performed within one treatment Cup on the abdomen first.GV 14 & GV 12 Respiratory disorders . in this case use chinetsukyu on GV 14. LU 1 & CV 17 Lumbar pain . UB 20.inbetween pregnancies) . UB 23. some of which may stay for 2 days to a couple of weeks • • SPECIFIC TECHNIQUES: Skin diseases anywhere on the body (some also use this tx for repeated miscarriages .UB 12.UB 12. unless you have performed bloodletting then use a 9:1 bleach solution • • • Patient reactions Some patients may feel too light headed or chilled.

Chinese Style Molded Glass Cup .• Examples of Devices for Cupping These are examples of different modern cupping vessels.

but glass vacuum gun cups are comparatively expensive. Note the wide rolled rim which softens the impact of cupping on the skin. This mold is also used for vacuum gun cups because you can drill the small resting point on the top of the dome to fit a seal. not break) and are relatively cheap. These cups are fairly ubiquitous in the cupping world. Different Sized Glass Cups . are very durable (have dropped several on a tile floor and they bounce. due to the fact that they work well.This is a Chinese style molded glass cup.

I usually use the smallest for arm work and for the acupressure point/trigger point in the center of the subscapularis muscle. Maltese Art Glass Cup .The glass cups come in different sizes for different parts of the body.

This is an art glass cup from Malta (Mtarfa/Valletta Glass). Set of Art Glass Cups . Note that it has a more vase like shape.

Plastic Cups . Note the variance in shape since these are hand blown and not molded.A set of art glass cups from Malta.

A set of plastic vacuum gun cups and the gun. Note that the rubber "lips" at the top are sometimes difficult to maintain a seal with and the rims are much smaller and apt to "cut" into the skin. Bamboo Cups .

. The lip of these cups is very thin and usually are a bit uncomfortable. The bamboo also tends to split and crack in dry environments.A set of bamboo cups. These cups are used with fire cupping and with the more traditional form of cupping where they were boiled with a set of herbs for a specific remedy. sabotaging any attempt at a seal.

00 Flat Top Glass Fire Cupping Jars Price: $2. for starters.00 Kang Zhu 12-Cup Cupping Set Price: $29.00 Kang Zhu 6-Cup Cupping Set Price: $15.00 Chinese Cupping If you still haven't undergone Chinese cupping treatment you're probably asking the million dollar question: how does cupping heal? Well. . it would be best to view cupping based on its philosophical principle.75 6-Piece Rotary Cupping Set Price: $39.00 12-Piece Rotary Cupping Set Price: $59. These can be translated loosely to positive and negative energies. Chinese traditional medicine believed in the balance between Yin energy and Yang energy.95 Rubber Cupping Set Price: $27.00 þÿ Search Kang Zhu 24-Cup Cupping Set Price: $48.Home | Shopping Cart | Contact Us | Help Shop For Cupping Sets Cupping Sets for Men Cupping Sets for Women Fire Cupping Sets Plastic Cupping Sets Pump Cupping Sets Guide to Chinese Cupping Chinese Cupping History of Chinese Cupping Various Cupping Methods How to use a Cupping Set Pump-N-Cups Price: $20.95 Biomagnetic 24 Deluxe Cupping Set Price: $79.

Through cupping. If you get sick. It is in this light that cupping works and this is the basic philosophy for its curative and healing powers. It may sound too metaphysical and surreal but these philosophical bases do have scientific underpinnings. some of the Yang factor can be flushed out and the Yin restored to full vitality. With good circulation and healthy activity and growth of cells. If these happen. but through strengthening the capacity of the body to produce more . Normally. It is believed that its action against colds is not through direct combat against virus. the therapist will run the cups along your muscles and nerve endings. it could cause common sickness and pains. This is especially true if the therapist will use heat promoted cupping method. optimum health is restored. In like manner. it will create enormous disruptions in your body which could lead to sickness. For example. Through the application of heat. The essential oils applied on the skin and the rubbing action associated with cupping also provides an effective healing solution. if too much toxin made their way inside your system. Cupping is recommended principally for respiratory and lung disorders. Cupping will use heat to suck out those toxins and accumulated stress and tensions. your body immune system can effectively fight diseases. Through the application of cupping treatment methods. After establishing the cups on their appointed spots. An imbalance to your system can make you sick. while an imbalance or disruption means sickness and the occurrence of diseases. the body is a comprehensive system that needs to be balanced in order to work properly. The massaging action coupled with the suction technique can stimulate activity of health cells. This then will lead to good health.Achieving balance means good health. your back will receive liberal amounts of oils during cupping sessions. the cold channels inside your body can be eliminated thus restoring balance of heat and cold. In fact. if cold air packets have penetrated your muscles nerves. then your Yang factor probably is greater thus tilting the health equilibrium. healing will occur. traditional Eastern medicine seeks to establish balance and good harmony of your body by restoring the Yin and Yang equilibrium. The suction created through cupping method will loosen impacted nerve endings thus restoring them to their original state. In this way. This is made possible through the promotion of excellent blood circulation. Heat has been used since ancient times for medical practices.

All rights reserved.anti-virus. © 2011 Terms :: Privacy Policy . Its action against arthritis and rheumatism can be attributed to the stimulation of muscles through the application of heat and friction during cupping sessions. cupping certainly heals. Cupping has been used in Traditional Medicine as a powerful and very effective method of fighting diseases and illnesses. Since ancient time to the present. voluminous records of anecdotal evidences and eyewitness testimonials have shown that indeed.

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