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Cupping belongs to the detoxification group of treatment methods. Blood is encouraged to the surface by placing cups on the skin. Through creating a vacuum, the blood supply in the skin is increased (dry cupping) or is encouraged to bleed (bleeding cupping). The tools are usually rubber or glass cups, approximately five to ten centimetres in diameter. With the help of a balloon or suction pump, low air pressure is created, clearing the body of toxins, relaxing any tension and balancing out the energy in the body.
Cupping belongs to one of the oldest healing methods. The first historic report for the use of cupping was found on a doctor’s seal in the Mesopotamia area around 3300 BC.
When doing dry cupping the treated area is warmed. Usually between six and ten cups are placed on the back along the spine. Low pressure causes the fine blood capillaries of the skin to extend and after a few minutes there are blue spots, which then turn into bruises. If the cups stay on for a bit longer, they can cause blood blisters. The treatment takes ten to fifteen minutes.
A cupping massage is one version of the bloodless cupping where the skin on the back is oiled. The practitioner then moves a small cup backwards and forwards over the area. The treatment is stopped if the skin reddens up too much. This type of cupping massage doesn’t cause any bruises and is only used in cosmetic treatments.
The bleeding cupping requires the skin to be cut in a cross shape. The cups are then placed on the body and fill with blood from the cuts. In ten or twenty minutes, approximately 50ml of blood is removed. It is a painful treatment and the skin will feel very sore with no real medical reason to do the treatment.
Despite the long tradition of cupping, there is no evidence for its effectiveness.