Cupping Therapy 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:

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

Cupping Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Chinese cupping is a method of breaking up the congestion, stagnation, and blockage of Qi, restoring 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 and 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 might 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, might 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 travels through particular sensory neural fibres, the stimulation of sensory fibres (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 is triggered by a sustained nociceptive input.

It uses a counter-irritation to reduce pain, “one pain masks another”, or pain inhibits pain.