Cupping is a safe and highly effective treatment most commonly used for the relief of muscle tightness and pain. Cupping works through gentle suction. In the use of glass cups, a small flame is briefly inserted inside of the cup to create a vacuum, and the cup is then quickly and gently applied to the skin. Plastic cups, on the other hand, use a hand pump to create the suction. In either case, the cups are applied for 5 to 10 minutes.
If the blood circulation is poor and stagnant in an area of muscle tissue, the suction of the cupping will pull that stagnant, dirty blood towards the surface of the body where immune cells can then break it down and eliminate it. Thereby, toxins and excess fluids are cleared from the muscle tissue and new, healthy blood can then begin to circulate and restore the tissue to good health.
Cupping is both therapeutic and diagnostic. When stagnant blood is present, the suction will pull it to surface of the body. This is evidenced by what are known as "cupping marks". These visible marks on the body will only show up if stagnant blood is present in the tissue. Cupping applied to healthy tissue will not produce marks, except possibly some slight redness that will disappear after a short time. Therefore we can clearly see if a patient indeed has blood stagnation when marks are produced.
Following a cupping session the patient will be advised to keep the area warm, dry and protected from exposure to moving air, like wind or that produced by a fan or air conditioner, for 24 to 48 hours. The area that has been cupped is vulnerable to natural, environmental forces, which can penetrate the area and lead to further pathology.
The amount of time it takes for the cupping marks to fade varies, depending on the severity of the blood stagnation and the general health of the patient. The milder the stagnation and the healthier the patient overall, the quicker the marks will clear, while the more severe the stagnation and the unhealthier the patient overall, the longer it will take. Very light marks may be gone in a day or two, while darker marks make take longer than a week.
Cupping is typically used as an adjunctive modality alongside acupuncture, tuina, kyojung, etc., although cupping can also be used as a stand alone treatment. It's a fantastic way to relieve tight, sore muscles in need of improved circulation.