Cupping is a therapy that involves the placement of cups on the skin creating a suction.

Traditionally this is done with a flame to absorb the air within the cup (before being placed on the skin) to create the suction, but more recently a hand held suction pump version has been proving to be popular among practitioners.

Cupping is believed to date back to over 2000 years within Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). However, there is some evidence that suggests the ancient Egyptians used cupping as early as 1550 B.C..

There are different styles of cupping; retained cupping, flash cupping, moving cupping, wet cupping, medicinal cupping, and needling cupping. These all aim to effect change within the body to treat a variety of conditions.

Some of the more common applications for cupping include:

  • Muscle tightness/cramps
  • Migraine/headache
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fertility/gynecological disorders

The cups itself can be made of different materials such as plastic, bamboo, glass, or earthenware.

The mechanism of cupping therapy is not clear. However, there is research that suggest that placement of cups on selected acupoints on the skin produces hyperemia or hemostasis, which stimulates a therapeutic effect (2).

Recent studies have suggested cupping to be effective in treating (1);

  • herpes zoster,
  • acne,
  • facial paralysis, and
  • cervical spondylosis

Research References On This Page

  1. Cao H, Li X, Liu J (2012) An Updated Review of the Efficacy of Cupping Therapy. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31793. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031793 (Link to research)
  2. Gao LW (2004) Practical Cupping Therapy [in Chinese]. Beijing: AcademyPress