Wondering what’s all the fuss about cupping? Not just a fad, cupping is an ancient therapy that is believed to have multiple benefits in TCM.
Cupping is a TCM therapy in which plastic or glass cups are used to apply suction and heat to meridian points on the body. Cupping is believed to rejuvenate meridians (energy pathways), improve the circulation of Qi, and thereby treat imbalances.
What cupping is good for
Cupping can be an appealing therapy option as it can treat many health problems, often with immediate results, says Physician Peng Yaling of Eu Yan Sang Clinic at Punggol and Tampines. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping is said to address health issues such as:
• Muscle aches and rheumatism
The suction and heat of cupping can provide deep relief for muscle aches and rheumatism. “Suction and heat draws out dampness, which is a common cause of such conditions,” Physician Peng explains.
• Flu or cold
Flu or cold symptoms generally indicate that pathogens have created stagnation in the meridians. Cupping can target those areas of stagnation and restore a healthy flow of energy, hence alleviating the flu or cold symptoms.
• Weight management
In TCM, obesity may originate in an impaired digestive system. For patients who are overweight, cupping can help “stimulate digestion, improve bowel movements and improve the removal of waste products from the body,” says Physician Peng. This helps the body shed excess weight.
• General health maintenance
To promote one’s overall health, cupping helps rejuvenate the meridians and internal organs that are not in their optimal condition.
Who can go for cupping
Cupping is suitable for most patients except those who are physically weak and who have certain conditions. Physician Peng shares that patients who should avoid cupping include those with diabetes, cholesterol, high blood pressure, or who are pregnant.
How cupping is carried out
During cupping treatment, which is generally 10-15 minutes long, the physician may apply either plastic suction cups or glass cups to meridian points.
With the plastic cup method, the physician uses a pump on top of the cup to suck out the air and create a partial vacuum effect. Glass cupping relies on a small flame to create suction, and is regarded as the more effective method. The healing effects of cupping can also be sped up when an acupuncture needle is left in the meridian point during cupping.
It is common for cupping to leave distinctive circular marks on the skin. These harmless marks will slowly fade before disappearing completely within days.
Follow-up treatments may also be recommended by the physician. The number and frequency of treatments will depend on the patient’s health and how his or her body responds to the cupping.
Even after one has addressed the original condition, cupping can continue as a long-term therapy. Cupping is suitable for regular relaxation as long as one does not always apply cups to the same area. "Cupping is good for relieving tension and general health maintenance; one can do it every day," Physician Peng says.
Common Cupping Methods
• Stationary cupping
The cups are left on the body for about 10-15 minutes.
• Moving/gliding cupping
The cups are moved along meridians of the body for about 5-10 minutes. This technique can cover a larger area more quickly than stationary cupping, but is more painful.
• Fire cupping
This technique involves creating a suction effect by putting a lighted cotton ball in the cup. It is believed that the heat helps extract Dampness from the body.
• Cupping combined with acupuncture
For stronger effects, an acupuncture needle is inserted into an acupoint, and the cup is placed on top of it.
Insights in this article were contributed by Physician Peng Yaling of Eu Yan Sang TCM Clinic at Punggol and Tampines.