Cupping is an alternative therapy that is used to restore energy, improve stomach problems, reduce cellulite and encourage weight loss. This traditional Chinese method operates under similar principals as acupuncture--that the body has 365 qi (pressure) points where life force can be stimulated. Cupping can be performed as a function of massage or on its own, which can be determined by the individual's desired results.
Traditional cupping uses heat in order to create suction when applied to the body. These cups resemble small jars that fit easily into the palm of the hand. In order to achieve the heat, a therapist can use a variety of methods: using a metal wand to heat the cup, then applying to the back, or through holding a wand with a lit cotton ball on the end, then applying the cup to the back.
While the cup cools fairly quickly, the heat from the flame helps to create suction when the cup is applied. The cups are placed on your body: most commonly your back, but also the legs or arms, and left for a period of time. The principal behind this method is that the cups unblock the qi and stimulate circulation and reduce sickness. This encourages weight loss by helping to restore stomach function and reduce appetite. The additional byproduct of feeling less stressed may also help to reduce overeating habits.
This method represents the most classic of the cupping jars used; however, some people may fear the heat or be especially sensitive to its effects. This method can also result in some bruising, which may leave black or blue circles on your body.
Manual Vaccum Cups
If the idea of open flame makes you nervous, or you fear bruising due to heat, you may wish for your therapist to utilize manual vacuum cups. These cups have a manual "pull" that creates a vacuum. Compared to traditional cups, these cups are first placed on the body, then the vacuum effect is created.
This type of cupping is considered a gentler method than traditional cupping, and may be more useful in those with sensitive skin. The typical side effects include a red or inflamed ring, but bruising is not typical.
There are ways to enhance the efficacy of the cupping process or to provide a more soothing procedure on the whole, depending upon your treatment goals.
If you prefer a more therapeutic experience, you can request that your therapist use massage or aromatherapy oils, which can be applied after the cups are removed. Many therapists will also wrap the body in warm blankets or towels to encourage circulation and relaxation.
It also is possible to combine acupuncture treatments with cupping. While neither practice is painful, this method is often not for those who fear needles. The cups can be a placed over the needles themselves to unblock qi points in the body.
While many therapists may make varying requirements, you should generally engage in weekly cupping treatments to see weight-loss benefits, according to Stillpoint Acupuncture Clinic.