The earliest record of cupping therapy was in the Ebers Papyrus – one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world. The textbook describes how ancient Egyptians used the therapy in 1550 BC.
The therapy is more commonly associated with ancient Chinese culture however, and is considered a form of traditional Chinese medicine. The term cupping is used to describe a technique where small glass/bamboo cups are used as suction devices on the skin.
There are different ways to create this suction. The most common method involves using heat. The therapist may apply rubbing alcohol to the bottom of the cup, light it and then apply the heated cup directly on the skin.
This suction causes the skin and superficial muscle to gently lift up into the cup. In this way, the therapy can be considered as an inversion of massage. Instead of applying a pressure downward on the muscles, cupping uses pressure upwards to lift the muscles. For many, this provides a relaxing sensation.
The aim of applying this pressure is to loosen and relax muscles, encourage blood flow, release toxins and relax the nervous system. Cupping therapy has many uses, but it is most commonly used for the following concerns:
- back and neck pain
- skin problems
- high blood pressure
- respiratory problems.