Cupping Therapy





This entry is dedicated to the cupping therapy and its application in treating discomforts. I recall about 5-6 years ago when my mother suffered from several back pain due to having herniated disc, or dislocation of her lower spine, she tried to use a moxa to heat the area. She also complains of joint pains especially during windy or rainy days. To relieve her arthrtic pains, she would use a collection of small suction cups the size of tennis balls to expell the “winds” in her body. The cups are stuck on about 5-6 minutes in which the area grows purplish red. My speculation is that they cause fine capillaries to break and blood carrying leukocytes, platelets and red blood cells to leak from he circulation, causing the area to bruise. The site of bruised circles may arouse suspiciion, so I will investigate and find out what is the medical prinicple behind cupping.

Principle: Cupping is to stimulate movement of Blood and Qi. In TCM theory, the stagnation of blood causes all cases of diseases. Just like the analogy of a body of water blocked by a dam, any residing pathogens and toxins have opportunity to flourish and create a diseased state. Cupping reactivates the movement of blood expelling any pathogenic factors and restores balance of blood, Qi, and humoral fluids of the body.

Cupping is applied on the skin of the back and shoulder blade. Why is skin the target of cupping therapy? The skin is the major player in cupping therap because its state reflects the internal health. Skin that is tight, lustrous, smooth and warm signify good health. Conversely, a skin that is dull, dry and cold to touch is unhealthy. There are millions of nerve endings that innervate the vast network of blood vessels beneath the surface of the skin. Cupping therapy intervenes by manipulating the skin, thereby controlling the movement of blood.

10 Cupping Techniques:

1. Weak (light)

2. Medium

3. Strong. Strong cupping is the most draining of all 6 techniques that moves both blood and Qi to eliminate pathogenic factors responsible for the defensive energy (Wei Qi 维气). Defensive qi act as the outermost protection of the integument and underlying muscles that combats pathogenic “Wind”, “Cold”, “Damp” and “Heat”. Wei Qi regulates the opening and closing of pores, nourishes and warms the skin, and facilitates respiration. A person with a faulty Wei Qi would have spontaneous sweating and aversion to wind as the protective layer is now gone. The consequences are a lowered immunity, allowing invasion of the aformentioned exogenic factors.

Technique: Ignite a cotton ball and quickly insert the fire into the cup, invert the cup onto the skin to create an instant suction. The strong vaccuum will pull at the skin to quickly turn it purple inside the cup, and should last no longer than 10 minutes. The purple bruise may take up to 15 days to recover.

Condition: Strong excessive shi condition.

4. Moving

5. Needle

6. Moxa (hot needle)




* Beginners to cupping are given light or weak cupping to prevent drastic depleting of qi. The patient may complain of lightheadedness due to the directed movement of blood.

The size of the cups used for children are smaller than those used for adults. Most common ailments that are sought for cupping treatment are common cold, digestive problems and asthma.

The frequency in clinical practice of cupping therapy is different in the East from the West. In Chinese medical facilities, cupping is applied daily until the ptient is well. This may involve 10 sessions per course with a week of rest in between. In the West, only one session per week is needed.


Supplemental Information:

1. Blood is a fluid containing the “essence of food” produced as result of Qi activity and circulates through the blood vessels and nourishes the body tissues. According to the ideology of TCM, blood is derived from food, works inseparable from qi and produced by the Spleen.

2. Qi is the living essence that moves blood. Where blood goes, the Qi follows. Blood is yin and Qi is yang. It is the invisible movement of force and heat that drives life. A fatigue person may have lesser Qi than another who is energetic and stronger. Consequently, a sedetary or ill person may feel cold due to the lack of heat. This can also be called as having a deficiency in Qi.

In scientific terms, the interpretation I make with Qi is the driving force that propels blood through the systemic circulation. Any rupture of blockage of blood is interpreted as the disruption of Qi. A deficient qi may lead to anemia, illness and coldness to skin when no blood, energy or warmth is supplied.

Dry Cupping.