Why professional athletes are turning to TCM’s Cupping

and what benefits could it have for you?

Considering its recent popularity amongst professional athletes, you could be forgiven for thinking that Cupping is the very latest treatment for muscle pain, but in actual fact, it dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.

But what IS cupping?

Cupping is a method used to move stagnant energy or blood to the surface of the body and to promote enriched oxygen in the organs and tissues. The practitioner places a cup – which is a conical shape the size of a small fist made usually of glass or plastic – at the surface of the treatment area, with the open side against the skin. Lower air pressure inside the cup is then produced by using either fire or air pumping. This lower air pressure induces local stasis of blood in the area mantled by the cup. Enriched oxygen in tissue is considered beneficial to the metabolism in muscle therefore improving physical functioning.

Cupping is often used to promote healing of muscle pain in the shoulders, back and hips but, in Chinese Medicine, it is also used to relieve organ disharmonies where cups are placed over specific back ‘shu’ organ points. For instance, in cases of cold and flu we place cups on the upper back and back ‘shu’ point of the lung to restore lung function as well as to clear wind and cold from the channels.

There are different types of cupping techniques: Fixed cupping, Sliding cupping (used very like massage) and Wet cupping. At Balance Acupuncture Brisbane, we mostly use the fixed cupping method described above. Cups are left in place anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on the ailment being treated.

What are Cupping Marks?

Many people mistake the circular marks left by the cupping method for bruising but unlike a bruise, no damage is done to the tissues during the process of cupping. The coloured marks denote the blood that is moved to the surface of the body by the treatment. The theory is that blood can become stagnant along the meridians of the body impeding efficient energy flow. When that blood is dragged to the surface by the cups, it leaves a mark. The darker the mark, the older the blood that has been moved.

How can Cupping help me?

Placing cups on relevant acupuncture points can help restore the flow of energy, blood and oxygen to many areas of the body, treating a variety of ailments and pains depending on the particular meridian or muscle group in need.

Although it is an ancient therapy, the therapeutic effect of cupping is sparsely interpreted in the language of modern physiology. Studies of recent years have been able to show how cupping enhances blood flow and oxygen levels in muscles and tissues using near-infrared spectroscopy to investigate the concentration changes of oxygen.