It is a technique that uses cups placed over the skin to create negative pressure through suction. There are two types of cupping methods, dry and wet. Dry cupping is non-invasive with no bloodletting. Wet cupping is invasive and includes bloodletting.

At the moment there is enough scientific evidence to state that cupping therapy is a promising method for the management of pain conditions.

To create the necessary negative pressure in the cups, there is manual pumping, automatic pumping, and the fire method.

Reported effects of cupping therapy include:

  • promotion of the skin’s blood flow,
  • changing of the skin’s biomechanical properties,
  • increasing pain thresholds,
  • improving local anaerobic metabolism,
  • reducing inflammation,
  • modulation of the cellular immune system.

CUPPING THERAPY and Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM)

Congestion, stagnation, and blockage of Qi, Chinese cupping is therefore a method of breaking up the blockage to restore the body’s natural flow of energy.

By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to ‘open’ these channels – the paths through which life energy flows freely throughout the body, through all tissues and organs, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force).

Cupping affects the flow of Qi and blood. It helps draw out and eliminate pathogenic factors such as wind, cold, damp and heat. Cupping also moves Qi and Blood and opens the pores of the skin, thus precipitating the removal of pathogens through the skin itself.

Cupping’s detoxifying effect on skin and circulatory system is also significant.

Theories behind the effect of cupping therapy

Immunomodulation theory

Changing the microenvironment by skin stimulation could transform into biological signals and activate the neuroendocrine immune system.

The genetic theory

Skin’s mechanical stress (due to sub-atmospheric pressure) and local anaerobic metabolism (partial deprivation of O2), during cupping suction could produce physiological and mechanical signals which could activate or inhibit gene expression.

Pain-Gate Theory (PGT)

First proposed in 1965 by Ronald Melzack and Patrick Wall, asserts that non-painful input closes the nerve “gates” to painful input, which prevents pain sensation from traveling to the central nervous system.

In nutshell: the pain travel through a particular sensory neural fibers, the stimulation of sensory fibers (touch, pressure, and vibration) can inhibit the transmission of the pain transmission.

Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls (DNICs)

Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls  is one of several varieties of “descending modulation”, by which the brain adjusts the “volume” on nociception (danger signals which originate in the body). Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls it’s triggered by a sustained nociceptive input, basically it uses a counter-irritation to reduce pain, “one pain masks another”, or pain inhibits pain.

References:

Jong-In Kim,(2008),Cupping for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review

doi:10.1093/ecam/nep035

Aboushanab T.S. and AlSanad S.(2018),Cupping Therapy: An Overview from a Modern Medicine Perspective

doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2018.02.001

Caroline de Castro Moura et al(2018), Cupping therapy and chronic back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis

doi: 10.1590/1518-8345.2888.3094

Al-Bedah A.M.N.(2018), The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtcme.2018.03.003

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