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What's It Like to Get Cupping?

Readers Share Their Experiences with Cupping

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Chinese Medicine: Cupping

A patient receives cupping treatment at a Chinese medicine clinic on July 8, 2008 in Chongqing Municipality, China. Cupping is an alternative form of pain therapy that has been part of Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years.

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Cupping (拔罐, báguàn) is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which the practitioner places heated glass cups or pressurized plastic cups on the skin to create suction which drains excess fluids and toxins.

What Happens During Cupping?

After months of shoulder pain that didn’t go away, my acupuncturist decided I should give cupping a try. First, I had a brief five-minute consultation with the practitioner in which she asked about my general health and what I wanted treated. She also took my pulse.

After the consultation, an assistant directed me to a chair. I was instructed to have a seat. A small steam machine pushed a steady stream of hot, scented steam at my shoulder. The scent was created from herbs that are heated. The warm steam helped to relax my shoulder and felt really good though the steam began to make me sweat after about 10 minutes.

Does Cupping Hurt?

After 15 minutes of the steam treatment, the practitioner took a plastic cup and placed it on my shoulder. Then, she used a handheld devise similar to a pump to pressurize the cup against my skin. My skin felt tight and slightly pinched but it didn’t hurt. She placed four cups on the front, side and back of my shoulder.

After a minute, the cups felt like they would ‘pop’ off. They almost immediately make purple rings on my skin. The practitioner also placed acupuncture needles in my shoulder, neck, and back. After two minutes, she removed the plastic cups to reveal four purple circles whose color and size resembled a slice of salami.

Some TCM clinics still use the traditional cups which are class cups that are heated with fire before being placed on the skin. The cups are most commonly placed on the back but can also be placed on other areas.

Does Cupping Work?

Initially, the cupping relieved some of my shoulder pain and my muscles felt much more relaxed. The circles left by the cups looked horrible but they didn’t hurt. After two days, some of them started to turn brown and my pain was nearly gone. After six days, two circles disappeared. After eight days, all the circles disappeared.

While cupping isn’t for everyone – you should always consult a physician before trying it – I found the experience to be worthwhile.

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