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A photo of different types of cups used for fire cupping.

© Wellcome Library, London. CC BY 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)

What is cupping?

Cupping is a healing technique well-preserved in the Chinese medicine culture. However, it is a universal therapy practiced by many cultures around the world and across varying time periods.

Cupping is the placing of cups on the skin which produce suction. Usually, a flame is placed inside the cup to consume the oxygen and create the suction. The flame is removed or extinguished before placing the cup on the skin.

Contemporary cups typically do not look like the artisanal “fire cups” shown above, but most closely resemble the second one from the left.

What are the benefits of cupping?

Cupping is effective for relieving pain, relaxing muscle spasms, increasing local blood circulation, and detoxifying local tissue. It is also used to treat common cold.

Will cupping leave marks on the skin?

Yes, cupping often leaves temporary marks on the skin. The marks resemble bruising, but are not painful. They are the result of bringing blood and toxins to the skin surface. The color of the marks can range from pink to red to dark purple, depending on your condition. The marks can last up to several days. To help reduce this duration, it is recommended to drink plenty of water after your treatment.

Can I get burned during cupping?

The flame used to produce suction is removed or extinguished before placing the cup on the skin, and the cup will not be hot when it touches the skin. Cupping is performed under a controlled environment, so there is little risk of getting burned.