Various Cupping Methods

A cupping set today may consist of a dozen clear plastic cups in different sizes.  The cups are strong enough to withstand the pressure during skin suction.  Normally, there is a tube at the bottom of the cup which can be attached to a suction pump.  Vacuum is created when the pump sucks the air out of the cup.

This is the modern version of a cupping set.  But did you know that since its first recorded use in 281 AD, cupping sets have evolved considerably.

The first tool for cupping was animal horn.  These horns were placed on specific points along the back, abdomen, thighs, or legs.  Ancient medicine men will burn dry leaves or paper and they will place it inside the horn.  

When the fire is about to be extinguished, they will firmly position the inverted horn on the affected areas.  The heat will create a vacuum and it will suck the skin where the horn is positioned.  It will be left there for about 10 to 30 minutes or until the heat dissipates.  

This method is generally called the heat-dry method.  This is still practiced today sans the horn.  During the Qing Dynasty in China, traditional healers began to use bamboo cups.

They will immerse the bamboo cups in boiling water to absorb liquid heat.  The heated bamboo cups then will be positioned on specific points in the body.  The resulting heat-cold imbalance will create a vacuum thus inducing suction on the skin.  The healers will also leave the bamboo cups for about 10 minutes.  They will reheat it again and continue the procedure.  

With the introduction of porcelain pottery cups as tools for cupping, traditional healers began to gently move the vessels along the affected areas.  The procedure for heating is the same as that of the bamboo cups.  

By moving the porcelain cups, Chinese doctors were able to massage different points of the body.  Because the cups are wet, they could easily move it along the body.  This is generally called the wet method of cupping because it uses heated liquid in the procedure.

Another unique method of applying the cups is by making a small incision at the point of suction.  This is primarily practiced by Arabian healers.  Dry heat will be applied on the jar through burning cotton or paper.  

The jars will be placed on affected points on the body.  But before the jar can be positioned firmly, the healer will make a very small incision using a sharp knife.  The suction will flush small streams of blood which is believed to carry toxins.

Modern application of cupping generally uses glass cups.  Glass heats quickly and stays in position for a long time.  Therapists can also move the glass easily especially if the skin is lubricated with essential oils.  

The invention of suction pumps for cupping eliminated the use of fire or heated liquid.  Cupping sets can be purchased in traditional medicine stores at a relatively affordable price.  Cups have different sizes from the smallest with half inch diameter to wide cups with 4 inch diameter.  

Traditional doctors always use oils to lubricate the skin and they will just position the cups and pump the air out.  They will leave the cups in place for thirty minutes while other practitioners constantly rub the cups against the skin of the patient.