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What is Cupping?

By Maureen Lamerdin O.M.D.

The history of Chinese cupping is a long history of healing and innovation. It is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine, dating back to the early fourth century. Later in the Tang and Qing dynasties, books were written on specific ailments that cupping was prescribed for.

This ancient method has been proven effective against common disorders associated with the pulmonary system, including asthma, bronchitis, colds and flus and pulmonary tuberculosis. During the Tang Dynasty, cupping was the principal treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis. Cupping also successfully treats, headaches, dizziness, abdominal pain, generalized pain, injuries of the back/shoulders/neck, herniated discs, disc degeneration, arthritis, knotted, nerves, and muscles. 

The general idea is that stagnation of circulation in the muscles and body tissues will lead to pain and other illnesses. Cupping improves the circulation in these areas and pain is alleviated and underlying health issues are often helped. Drawing up the skin opens up the skins 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. 

Cupping Involves the application of glass, plastic or bamboo cups, which adhere to the body through the use of a pump or by heat, thereby causing a vacuum effect which sections the localized skin up into the cup. The cups are used over certain acupuncture points and/or over areas of pain. this process is not painful, however feels unique, like the tentacles of an octopus have attached their suction cups to your skin. There are several different styles of cupping that may be utilized which may incorporate sliding the cups along the skin, applying and removing them rapidly, leaving them in place and placing them over acupuncture needles.

A practitioner may use as little as one and up to 20 cups during a single treatment depending upon the location to be treated. Once the cups are attached they are generally left on for 5-15 minutes. They do leave a mark on the body, which lasts for about 1-10 days depending upon the condition. These marks are very useful as a diagnostic tool – the darker the park, the more stagnation there is in the muscles. As the marks lighten through progressive treatments, it is a sign of the underlying conditions are improving.

It is very important to seek out an O.M.D. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine) Or an acupuncturist to assure safety as there are several contraindications to cupping. 

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