Cupping therapy is a very old and widespread method of treatment. It can be found as a traditional medicine in cultures on nearly every continent. 

Versions of cupping:

  • Static: Done with ceramic, glass or bamboo cups and a flame to evacuate air and create a vacuum or with plastic cups using a hand pump for more precise control over the suction and less risk of burning. Static cupping often leaves bruises which usually clear in a week or so but can last for several months.
  • Moving: Done with massage oil and soft silicone cups which are moved across the skin, and combines elements of cupping with massage and Guasha/Graston. Tight fascia is pulled up and loosened. Moving cupping can leave some marks (petechiae) which usually clear in several days.
  • Wet/Hijama: Traditional in Arabic medicine , this combines cupping with bloodletting. I don't do this form of cupping at the clinic, but I can refer interested people to practitioners who will.

Cupping is an excellent therapy for superficial, rather than deep muscle pain but it can supplement acupuncture in the treatment of deeper issues. It gently pulls up on the skin and the strength of suction controls the effect on underlying blood vessels. The goal of cupping has nothing to do with toxins and everything to do with improving circulation and relaxing the myofascial structures.

Although cupping has been a part of traditional medicine in nearly every part of the world, modern medical practices have only recently come around to it. After decades of calling it quackery or even abuse, they now call it "myofascial decompression" or "suction therapy", but it's the same practice.