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Does Cupping Therapy Work?

Does Cupping Therapy Work?

Have you ever noticed small, circular bruises on the skin of your favorite Olympians or athletes? These marks were an especially hot topic following the 2016 Olympic games where U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps took the world by storm.

Not caused by rough-housing or injury, these hematomas are the result of a process known as cupping.

An alternative form of medicine, cupping therapy is designed to treat pain and ease muscles. But does cupping therapy work and should your clinic offer it?

Keep reading to discover the benefits of cupping therapy, how it works, and how to ensure your patients receive the highest level of care.

How Does Cupping Therapy Work?

Before you add cupping therapy to your list of clinical practices, it’s best you learn a thing or two about this alternative form of medicine.

Similar to other ancient practices, cupping therapy actually dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures of 1,500 B.C. The process was also mentioned in one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world – the Ebers Papyrus.

The process involves placing glass cups on the patient’s body to create suction, offering both physical and spiritual benefits.

Physical benefits include increased blood flow, loosened muscles, relief of muscle pain and fatigue, reduced anxiety, and sedation of the nervous system. Some patients also find relief from migraines and even cellulite.

The ancient practice is also said to help encourage the flow of “qi” in the body, which means “life force” in Chinese culture. Cupping may also help balance the positive and negative in the body – known as yin and yang. This balance can create physical benefits including reduced pain and faster healing.

What to Expect During Cupping Therapy

Some patients are hesitant to try cupping because they don’t know what to expect. Will it hurt? Why does it leave marks and how long do they last?

Let’s take a look at what patients can expect during a cupping therapy session.

The Methods

There are a few methods you can use to perform cupping on patients. These range from weak, medium, and strong cupping to techniques using fire, needles, and water.

The main goal of any method is to create suction between the glass cup and the patient’s skin. This suction pulls muscles gently upward, into the cup – the opposite of traditional massage which involves pushing down on the muscles to relieve tension and pressure.

One such method includes swabbing the bottom of the cup with rubbing alcohol, lighting it on fire, and immediately placing the cup against the skin. While this sounds dangerous (and potentially painful), it’s not.

The flame is used to heat the area within the cup to create suction and never touches the skin.

The Sensation

Some people think cupping therapy sounds like Mepal torture, but the truth is, many patients describe the process as relaxing and pleasant.

Once the cups are in place, they remain there for approximately 10 minutes. Patients often feel instant relief as the cups help reduce muscle tension.

The Recovery

There’s no real recovery time for cupping therapy since the process itself is used for healing. Patients will, however, see mild bruising and marking on the skin. These bruises are often circular and the same diameter as the cup used.

Bruising usually subsides in 7-10 days. We recommend applying a topical analgesic to the bruises such as EpomgelCryoDerm or Anti-Flamme.

How Cupping Therapy Benefits Patients 

Are you still wondering if cupping is a viable therapy to offer clients? Here you’ll discover some of the many benefits your patients can expect from this healing practice.

Improved Athletic Performance

Similar to sports massage, chiropractic care, and acupuncture, cupping not only reduces pain and relieves muscle tension but may also improve athletic performance.

Cupping therapy increases blood flow, improving circulation. This speeds up the body’s healing process and can ease sore and fatigued muscles. The less pain athletes experience, the shorter the recovery time.

Cupping is also said to help balance and focus the body’s energies, helping athletes perform at their best.

Treat Asthma and Respiratory Issues

Muscle tension and pain aren’t the only internal issues that cupping therapy treats. Cupping is commonly used to help patients suffering from asthma or other breathing issues, including lung infections.

The method can help break up chest congestion and clear the lungs. Cupping is a viable treatment for both asthma sufferers and those suffering from a common cold.

Weight Loss and Gastrointestinal Health

Cupping therapy is also used to aid in weight loss by promoting a healthy gut.

Some patients experience a more efficient metabolism, which promotes weight loss. Others report relief from constipation, improved digestion, and a healthy appetite.

Aside from weight loss, cupping can also reduce the appearance of cellulite and improve the overall appearance of the skin.

Additional Things to Consider

While the ancient practice of cupping offers many benefits for patients, the possibility of mild side effects does exist. This is true with any treatment plan.

Here are a few side effects and potential risks to keep in mind.

Skin Irritation

Cupping therapy involves placing pressure on your skin. This pressure can lead to mild discomfort, irritation, or infection, although this is rare when performed by a trained professional.

Patients with skin sensitivities may react better to a weak cupping method.

The bruising and markings on the body from cupping are harmless and should subside within a week to 10 days.


Similar to massage, cupping therapy is a healing, therapeutic practice. It’s meant to relax the patient. This state of relaxation sometimes results in feelings of exhaustion following treatment.

In most cases, fatigue is mild and very short-term. Long-term effects include improved physical performance and increased energy.

Cupping Therapy is Another Way to Naturally Treat Patients

When patients come to you looking for natural, holistic ways to treat their ailments, you can now confidently offer them cupping therapy as a solution.

If patients ask you, “Does cupping therapy work?”, educate them on the practice’s many benefits – both physical and mental.

Looking for more educational opportunities? Browse our many services here or contact us to find out how we can help.

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