The Amazing World of Cupping!

By Philip Wheeler

Why do I love cupping soo much, and why do all the professional athletes and celebrities have it?

Many of the new people following me on social media have been asking about the benefits of cupping, and does it hurt.

I could honestly write a book on cupping with over a thousand pages (which I might do in the future after my healing cookbook!) but for now I thought I would do a very brief blog.

I have done my best to answer the most common questions, along with telling you about some of the more popular uses for cupping.

No doubt I would have missed a few things out which I will add to at a later date!

Let’s get the most common question out of the way first, Origins.

Well we don’t really know for certain where or when cupping was invented.

The most documented country for cupping is China hence ‘Chinese Cupping’.

But this only means they are really good at documenting things!

The Ebers Papyrus, written c1550BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the Western World describes the Egyptians using cupping, along with the ancient Greeks in c400BC. They used cupping to aid with internal disease and structural problems. Another early documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled ‘A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies’, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong. This dates  back to 300 AD. An even earlier Chinese documentation, three thousand years old, recommended cupping for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. In both Eastern and Western cultures, cupping evolved from shamanistic practices that held the belief that illnesses and infirmities can be sucked out of the body

So what is cupping?

Think of cupping as an extreme deep tissue massage which works from the inside out and able to penetrate many inches into the body.

This is one of very few treatments which can actually stretch the soft tissue around the bones and joints which 80%+ of the Western World need!

The cups are made of sturdy glass or plastic, but originally would have been made of pretty much anything able to hold liquid, such as cattle horns and bamboo.

Regardless of the material used, a vacuum is required for the cups to stick.

A flame is used to create this vacuum when using the glass cups. There are many methods to do this, with the most common being a flaming cotton wool ball.

Once a sufficient vacuum has been created the cup is then very quickly and skill-fully placed on the patient in the desired location (often the back).

The plastic cups are slightly different as they are of course more modern and tend to come with a hand pump or in some cases an electric pump.

Unfortunately nowadays the ancient art of cupping is mis-taught by many schools in the UK, who teach it only as a massage release tool rather than what it was intended for.

They do this because they are scared of the ‘marks’ and misunderstand what the marks are, along what they are telling us ‘diagnosing’.

It’s important to understand the marks are not bruises as there has been no trauma caused. They also do not hurt when touched as many people believe when looking at the pictures.

In most cases we are actually looking to obtain the marks as its a sign of things improving and acts as a great diagnostics tool.

No marks at all can sometime be a bad thing and actually far worse than a darker one.

There is an exception to the marking when it comes to facial cups, as for obvious reasons we are not looking for the dark circular marks.

Face cups tend to be made of silicone and are applied using finger pressure which creates a far less forceful vacuum.

But be warned, these cups can still leave marks, and therefore should only be performed by a highly trained cosmetic facial cupping expert.

The benefits of facial cups are endless which we will be save for a later post, but I will let you know the treatment has a remarkable ability to reduce fine lines & wrinkles, as well as detoxification and leaving a fresh healthy glow. No wonder the celebrity’s get this done!

Let’s get back to normal cups; Once the cups are placed on the patient, the vacuum lifts and pulls at the skin, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and the all important fascia.

At first its an odd sensation but not one that is painful. If 20 cups were placed on your back, after around 4 minutes you would only really feel around 3.

The cups can be moved around or kept in one place depending on the treatment. Timings vary between schools and practitioners but is generally around 10-15 minutes.

As mentioned above, cupping is like a deep tissue massage but in reverse, with the added benefit of stretching the soft tissues, thus increasing range of movement.

The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping also loosens muscles, encourages blood flow, and sedates the nervous system which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure.

Cupping also lengthens nerve endings by nano millimetres which is excellent at decreasing localised pain restoring pain free movement.

The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping also loosens muscles, encourages blood flow, and sedates the nervous system which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure.

Picture this, you have a back ache. It’s been there many months and you have seen ever physio, osteopath, chiropractor, and NHS GP and their dog, but the pain is still there!

Given it’s not a mechanical issue (just to keep things simple, although we can still help you via other restorative treatments & HVTs), we place a couple of cups over the site of pain, pop them off 15 minutes later, and the pain has decreased dramatically, or in the best case scenarios has gone…….. We may start with manual therapy, gua sha, or other treatment, but the cups are like the icing on the cake!

Another one of cuppings USPs is its ability to increase circulation by c200% flushing out all stagnation which may have occurred via injury, or which may be causing an injury or pain

This also means cupping does wonders for recovery after the gym or even an operation as it promotes healthy blood flow into the site of treatment. This blood is filled with oxygen, amino acids, red and white blood cells, and a ton of other nutrients which the cells need to repair and remaining healthy.

In the Western World therapists generally have to wait a set amount of days or even weeks before they are permitted to start aiding the recovery process of an injury.

Eastern philosophy is totally different with the doctor able to use many tools such as cupping which to speed up the process.

Many of you may have seen the review from Scott who suffered a terrible tendon injury to his ankle but was back playing high level badminton in a matter of weeks rathe then the standard months/year as we were able to increase blood flow dramatically.

The old Chinese medical maxim holds that pain results from the congestion, stagnation, and blockage of Qi (pronounced chi), or vital energy, vital fluids, lymph, phlegm, and blood. If pain is the essence of disease, then suffering is a result of obstructed or irregular flow in the body. Chinese cupping is therefore a method of breaking up the blockage to restore the body’s natural flow of energy.

‘Where there is stagnation, there is pain’

Fat Loss! Yes cupping can even help with fat loss! And dare I say it but ‘spot reduction’ fat loss. This is due to again the increase in blood flow and oxygen. Fat itself lacks oxygen so increasing this helps the body use the fat stores more easily for energy. We also get an aspect of thermogenesis which also aids in fat metabolism. Body sculpting (Brazilian Bum Lifts for example), and cellulite reduction has become extremely popular over the years as it’s a proven method to improve your appearance but non surgically. Nowadays modern machines tend to be used for these treatments in the top salons across the country (such as Evoke Tanning & Beauty in Stony Stratford, Milton Keynes) where they are combined with IR Lights and Laser Lipo.

Cupping doesn’t only work on the physical aspect of the body as it can also help with emotional and hormonal issues.

This is dependent however on the practitioner being skilled enough in the initial assessment and placement of the cups, and furthermore the diagnostics from the marks. We have had many success stories in clinic aiding patients with depression, insomnia, ADHD, and lots more by including the cups into other treatments.

Cupping is also amazing at helping with chest & lung complaints such as asthma, chest infections, stubborn phlegm, hay-fever, eczema, psoriasis, and again, much more.

Many of our professional athletes get cupping to aid in their cardiovascular endurance, with benefits seen pretty much instantly.

There are also advanced methods of cupping (rarely taught in the UK) which uses water sometimes infused with herbal medicine, with varying temperatures, which we use to aid issues such as asbestos removal.

Cupping also affects the digestive system. A few benefits include an improved metabolism, relief from constipation, a healthy appetite, and stronger digestion.


Who can have cupping?

ANYONE! Yes anyone can have cupping as long as they have had their initial consultation/assessment.

No matter how old, young, healthy or sick, cupping can help.

The strength of the cups used and the time left in situ will change but the principles will stay the same.

Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?……..  Agreed it can look horrendous, but honestly it is not painful.

One of my paediatric patients once described her session to me as have a warm octopus on her back giving her a hug.

Cupping really is for everyone and is amazing, and I would hate to think anyone would go through their life without experiencing it at least once.

The list of benefits cupping brings is endless, far more than we can list here.

If you have a question, or condition you would like to discuss to please send me a message and I will be happy to talk.