Cupping is a form of Traditional Chinese medicine where inverted cups made of bamboo, glass, silicone or plastic are placed and inverted over acupuncture points, then placed under suction. Health benefits include improved circulation, increase in lymphatic drainage, release of toxins, and decrease in pain form conditions such as arthritis, muscle pain, low back pain, neck pain and fibromyalgia.
There are two types of dry cupping. Dry cupping is where cups are placed over acupuncture points and suction is created which lifts the skin and soft tissues creating a stretch within the muscle and fascia. In stationary cupping, these cups are left in place. Generally, a tight sensation is felt around the cupped area. The cups are left in place for 10-15 minutes. In gliding cupping, lotion is applied to the area to be cupped and the cups are placed under suction and then glided along the meridians or pathways of energy. This type of cupping can cover a larger area such as the thighs and back.
Although there are vast benefits of cupping with acupuncture treatments, not everyone is a candidate for cupping. Those who are physically weak, have sensitive skin, inflamed skin, fever, or who are on blood thinners should not undergo cupping. Cupping can be used with pregnant women however, the stomach, lower back and specific forbidden points should be avoided.
It is common for cupping to leave small circular marks on the areas where the cups were placed. These areas are usually painless. The discolorations are a result of broken blood vessels below the skin surface. The color indicates the level of blood and Qi stagnation, toxin and dampness in the body. The pattern and color of the marks reflect the level of stagnation in the area. For example, the darker the color, the more stagnation present.
Cupping marks are not bruising. Bruises are made by injury or blunt trauma to the skin surface. Bruises are painful. The marks made by cupping are caused by suction and works to bring toxins to the surface of the skin. Cupping marks do not cause pain.
People often ask how long the cupping marks will last and if they have any specific meaning. The coloring of the cupping marks ranges from bright red to a dark purple. These can last 3 days to a week. A darker color means that there is more toxins and stagnation in the section of the body that has been treated. The darker cupping marks can last up to 3 weeks. Lighter marks that are pink can last for a few hours. Usually, subsequent cupping treatments will yield lighter marks as the toxins are dissipating from the body. In the case of an injury, multiple cupping treatments may be needed to rid the body of toxins and pathogens and induce healing of the deeper tissues.
Cupping marks type and color explained
- Pale cupping marks and cold skin after cupping indicates deficiency, cold or dampness
- Dark purple cupping marks indicate stagnation and cold
- Light or bright red spots in the cupping marks indicate Qi and blood deficiency, or Yin deficiency
- Little dark spots scattered in the cupping mark indicates deep Qi and blood stagnation
- Skin lines in the cupping marks or itching after cupping indicates wind or dampness
- Cold or dampness is indicated by water drops in the cup
- Blisters/bubbles after cupping normally means dampness, accumulated fluids in the tissues, and cold
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