Since ancient times, cupping therapy has been used to treat a number of chronic ailments. For long, the therapeutic effects of this centuries-old technique were dubbed “placebo”. But the practice has stood the test of time and is a focus of active research. Cupping therapy is regarded as an alternative medicine that has yet to be proved on research grounds as for its therapeutic values. Its use dates back to ancient Egyptian and Chinese times. Depending on the geography and culture, multiple objects have been used in the procedure: cups of silicone, plastic, bamboo, or horns. Now rubber pumps have replaced traditional cups.
The procedure is a simple, non-invasive form of physiotherapy, is cost-friendly and does not require a lot of technical aid. The physiotherapist uses pre-steamed hollow cups to create a negative suction pressure that pulls on underlying muscle and causes other changes in the microvasculature and hormonal release in the body. It causes a deep tissue massage, decreases tension in the muscles and increases mobility.
Cupping therapy is proven effective for:
- improving blood circulation
- pain reduction
- anti-inflammatory effects
- muscle relaxation
How does it work?
Cupping therapy has well established its position in therapeutic medicine over the centuries, but western medicine that depends upon scientific research in proving the efficacy of a treatment, has yet to acknowledge cupping therapy.
Multiple theories tend to explain the mechanism of action by suggesting changes in the biological and the mechanical framework of the skin. Suction on the skin causes the underlying capillaries to function as micro filters. This clears the area of accumulated toxins that might be causing pathology or may be an outcome of a pathological effect.
Suction and puncturing counter pain by causing closure of the sensory input of pain. It does so by increasing the threshold of activation, hence, pain in the body becomes ineffective to stimulate perception in the brain.
Puncturing the skin activates the body’s natural healing mechanisms. By inducing the release of nitric oxide gas in the vicinity of the cupping, it causes vasodilation. Improved blood circulation rejuvenates the immune system, causes better temperature regulation, decreased spasticity in the muscles, and washes out toxins.
Cupping therapy finds useful indications in,
- Cardiovascular disorders: Blood disorders, anemia and hemophilia, varicose veins and high blood pressure.
- Skin diseases: Eczema and acne
- Inflammatory conditions: Rheumatic diseases like Ankylosing spondylitis, gout, fibromyalgia and arthritis.
- Migraine, anxiety and depression
- Fertility and other gynecological issues
- Bronchial asthma and allergies
- Herpes zoster
The main procedure of suction by negative pressure can be enhanced by different approaches.
- Dry cupping: involves cups applied via a lubricating agent to the skin to cause suction.
- Wet cupping: it involves micro incisions along with suction to draw out blood.
- Acupuncture: it involves poking the skin with needles to draw out blood from the target site.
- Flash cupping: involves rapid application and removal of the cups to stimulate local microcirculation.
Although cupping is quite helpful, people with bleeding disorders, deep venous thrombosis, skin conditions (psoriasis and eczema), and history of stroke should avid this therapy.