What happens during a cupping therapy session?

To begin you will have a consultation with your therapist. This is when you discuss the concerns you would like to address with the treatment. It is helpful at this stage to inform your therapist of any other treatments you are receiving and any health conditions that may make you unsuitable for this therapy.

The therapist will then be able to assess where best to place the cups. The back is the most commonly used area. This is because it has five meridian lines which are optimal for cup placement. Other areas of the body can be used too, fleshy areas are preferred as they lend themselves well to suction.

Depending on the nature of the condition you’re seeking help for, your therapist will leave the cups in place from five to 10 minutes. Usually several cups are placed at the same time. Some therapists may also apply medicated oils or herbal infusions to the skin, allowing the cups to be moved once applied.

Some therapists may also offer acupuncture. Often the two therapies are used within the same session. If this is the case, you can choose whether or not you would like just cupping, or both cupping and acupuncture in the same session.

Does it hurt?

Cupping therapy causes mild swelling and bruising on the skin so many people assume it must be painful. This shouldn’t be the case however. The marks, or ‘bruises’ appear because the suction causes the blood vessels on the surface of the skin to expand. The resulting marks are unlike bruises caused by blunt trauma so they shouldn’t hurt. The marks can last anywhere between a day and two weeks, but usually they last a couple of days.

You may feel a tight pulling sensation as the cups are applied, but again there shouldn’t be any pain. If you are feeling pain, be sure to tell your therapist so they can adjust their technique. If your skin is broken or inflamed, the therapy should be avoided as this may cause pain.


If you’re worried about the sensation, explain this to your therapist. Many therapists will use a very¬†gentle pressure during your first session and gradually increase in intensity as you get used to the feeling.