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Cupping: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (Part One)

How does cupping work?

Cupping uses reverse suction, or vaccum suction in order to suction a container against the skin. Depending on the type of cup, slightly different methods are used. There are a variety of different cups available out there, and technically you can use just about any container as long as you use the right mechanism. 

On solid cups, like glass, ceramic, or bamboo, heat is quickly introduced into the cup (usually a burning piece of paper or cotton etc) and then quickly pulled out. This heats up the air in the cup, and creates a difference in atmospheric pressure from the air outside the cup. As the warmer air of the cup quickly cools, it creates a partial vacuum, keeping the cup suctioned onto the body until the seal is broken. This style of cupping (as you might imagine) is called fire cupping. 

Another method sucks air out of the cup once it is already placed against the skin. In ancient times, this used to be practiced with animal horns that had a small hole drilled at the tip, and the practitioner would suck the air out. Now, air pump guns are used. This type of cupping is known as vacuum cupping, vacuum pump cupping, or Kangzu cupping.

One of the most recent additions to the cupping world are silicone cups, which are made of a flexible silicone material so that the practitioner can manually create a vacuum, by squeezing the air out of the cup. This style of cupping is known as silicone cupping.

How do I choose which type of cupping to receive?

Usually, the style of cupping used is dependent on both your preferences, and the practitioners analysis of your case. Certain styles of cupping are better suited to different needs. 

What are the origins of cupping?

The origins of cupping are hotly debated, with a number of different cultures claiming to have originated the practice. Evidence of cupping has been documented in Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, Ancient Arabia, and Ancient Greece.

One of the oldest texts to mention cupping therapy is Eber’s papyrus, written around 1550 BC in Ancient Egypt. In Ancient Egypt, cupping was documented for use in conditions including pain, fever, menstrual imbalances, and vertigo.

When did cupping originate in Chinese Medicine?

Cupping is widely utilized in Chinese Medicine. The first known reference to cupping in Chinese Medicine was in the 4th century text “The Handbook of Prescriptions” by herbalist Ge Hong, who wrote: “Acupuncture & cupping, more than half the ills cured.” 

Cupping was particularly popular during the Qing and Tang dynasties.The practice, known as ba guan zi, is what we would today call fire cupping. The cups were originally made from animal horns, bamboo, or clay. Ba guan zi was used to treat cold in the channels, headache, vertigo, and abdominal pain. This form of cupping utilized both the acupuncture points and meridians, as well as what we would today call “trigger points” (known in Chinese Medicine as ashi points).

This style of cupping is still used today in Chinese Medicine, and is used in treating a wide variety of symptoms! Interested in finding out more about cupping, including the science behind cupping, and what conditions cupping is most effective at treating? Read more in our second installment on cupping in July! 

Can’t wait to give cupping a try? Book a session today!


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Cupping: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (Part Two)

Curious about cupping? In our two-part series, find out everything you ever wanted to know about cupping... from its origins and its use throughout history, to the science behind cupping and what conditions it is most helpful in treating!