From Olympic athletes to pop stars, cupping is quite popular. You may even see people at the gym or pool with the tell-tale red circles on their backs and shoulders.
But what exactly is it, and what does it do for you?
by Valerie Demetros
In cupping therapy, a therapist either soaks a cotton ball in alcohol and lights it on fire inside a glass cup or heats up the cup in another way. The heat source is then quickly removed and the cup is placed on a patient’s skin, creating a vacuum that draws up the skin tissue.
When the skin seals the hot air in the vessel, the air inside begins to cool and causes the skin to contract.
Advocates of cupping believe it is the stretching and contraction of the skin that makes cupping effective by increasing blood flow.
The four main categories of cupping include dry, wet, running and flash and are often combined with acupuncture.
This additional blood flow to an area from cupping can help relieve muscle tension and promote cell repair. Cupping also can give your body a boost in releasing toxins. Focused blood flow then helps your body by flushing built-up toxins through the lymphatic system, which is responsible for eliminating your body’s toxins and waste.
When your therapist glides the cups across your skin, your parasympathetic nervous system engages, promoting deep relaxation throughout your entire body. Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for slowing your heart rate and assisting in digestion.
The increased blood flow enables your body to dispose of toxins, restores lymphatic circulation and helps remove edema (excess fluid). Studies have shown good results after cupping on stretch marks and scars.
A 2018 review of cupping reported enhanced pain thresholds, reduced inflammation and increased cellular immunity. Another benefit may be the elimination of uric acid, a natural waste product from the digestion of certain foods.
If you’re curious, talk to a cupping practitioner to find out which kind is best for your goals and needs.