Cupping has become very topical since Michael Phelps showed off his cupping marks at the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio. Of course, cupping is a very ancient form of Chinese medicine that has been around for thousands of years and has been used by various cultures all over the world. Historians believe that cupping is, in fact, the most ancient technique in Chinese medicine, predating acupuncture.
What is Cupping?
Suction is applied to the skin using glass, rubber, or plastic cups. In ancient times, doctors used bamboo. The vacuum action rapidly facilitates the release of rigid soft tissues. It loosens and lifts connective tissues, it breaks up and drains stagnation, and increases blood and lymph flow to skin, muscles, and connective tissues. It does all of these things far more rapidly and effectively than any other type of therapy, including acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic adjustments, medications and sometimes even surgery.
What do the Colours Mean?
The colour change on the skin after cupping indicates many different things. Sometimes it turns orange or purple and, for others, it may turn red. The marks usually last from three days to a week; sometimes longer if a person is very sick or sedentary. The colour change on the skin after cupping also helps to determine the nature and the location of an illness but, for a healthy person with healthy skin, the tissue colour does not change at all after the cupping.
Since you can use the suction cupping almost anywhere on the body surface except in areas where large blood vessels pass, such as in the groin, you can check to see if you have internal troubles from the outside of the body. In areas where there is dead blood, lymph, cellular debris, pathogenic factors, and toxins present in the body, cupping will leave marks which indicate that the stagnation has been moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface. The colour and pattern of the marks depends on the level of stagnation in the area. If there is no stagnation present, there will be only a light pink mark which disappears in a few minutes to a couple of hours.
Sites where there is old trauma or injury may require multiple cupping treatments to remove all stagnation. Patients will find, in follow-up treatments, that the marks will be lighter and lighter as the pathogens are systemically removed from the body. Cupping marks are not bruises and they are generally not painful. Although the cupping treatment itself can be slightly uncomfortable and the marks can look dramatic, the presence of colour in the cupped areas guarantees that the patient will feel immediate relief after the treatment.
Who Should Do Cupping?
Although cupping is a simple technique, it should only be performed by an expert practitioner. Although some massage therapists, chiropractors, or estheticians offer cupping therapy, they generally lack the in-depth training and experience that is required to apply cupping therapy safely and effectively. At best, cupping therapy performed by an untrained practitioner will be ineffective. At worst, it can cause burns, blisters, or scar tissue that result in further pain as opposed to providing relief.