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  • Writer's pictureBobby Eng

Modality Spotlight: Cupping

Cupping is an increasingly common modality used by both practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine and other therapies. It can be done with glass, silicone, bamboo, plastic, or even vacuum magnetic cups to provide the therapeutic benefit. What most people know about cupping is the circular “bruises” that are left on the skin and made famous by athletes such as Micheal Phelps.

Most therapies that exist are based on compression, whereas with cupping, the Acupuncturist has the capability to use decompression through pressure gradient changes. The negative pressure is created in the cup either via suction or heat. Truly a cupping mark is not a bruise as there is no pain upon palpation or tissue/capillary damage, rather it is ecchymosis evidence of decompression therapy that can be used to move fluids through dehydrated and pathological tissues. The marks are fluids drawn to the area of pressure for healing and circulatory benefits. These marks can be used diagnostically and prognostically depending on their appearance and how long they may stay on the tissue Cupping can be used for a variety of symptoms migraines, back pain, common colds, herpes, allergies, acne, and spondylitis to name a few. As with most Traditional Chinese medicine treatments, cupping will also aid in circulation, reduce pain, and clear heat/inflammation. It is also worth noting, that many individuals receive strong relaxation and calming benefits from Cupping (as well as all other Traditional Chinese medicine modalities).


· Kim SB & Lee YH. (2014). Numerical analysis of the change in skin color due to ecchymosis and petechiae generated by cupping: a pilot study. J Acupunct Meridian Stud. 2014 Dec;7(6):306-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2013.09.004

· Cao, H., Han, M., Li, X., Dong, S., Shang, Y., Wang, Q., … Liu, J. (2010). Clinical research evidence of cupping therapy in China: a systematic literature review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 10, 70. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-10-70

· Kaki A, Sawsan R, Samiha M, Al Jaouni S, Elalah MA, & Ibrahim N. (2019). Wet cupping reduces pain and improves health related quality of life amongst patients with migraine: a prospective observation study. Oman Med J. 2019 Mar;34(2):105-109. doi: 10.5001/omj.2019.21.

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