Cupping is used to treat pain, ease scar tissue deep within muscles and connective tissues, and reduce swelling and muscle knots. Also, like many complementary treatments, cupping is used to minimize circulating toxins by drawing them into the skin where they are more easily removed.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, cupping improves the flow of qi (your vital life force) and can help treat colds, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.


During a cupping treatment, a cup is placed on the skin and then heated or suctioned onto the skin. The cup is often heated with fire using alcohol, herbs, or paper that’s placed directly into the cup. The fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed with the open side directly on your skin.

Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus more traditional heat methods. When the hot cup is placed on your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle upward into the cup. Your skin may turn red as the blood vessels respond to the change in pressure.

The cup is set in place for a set time, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. Any mild bruising or other marks usually go away within days of the session. Cupping is sometimes performed along with acupuncture treatments.

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