What is Cupping?
Cupping is an ancient medical treatment; its Chinese roots date back to 300 or 400 A.D. Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures also have ancient records of the practice. Cupping is still regularly used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and elsewhere. Suction cups of varying sizes are attached to the body, and the suction draws blood to the surface of the skin. Hence, the bruise-like marks seen left on the skin after treatment. Cupping is said to improve blood circulation, thereby speeding up healing, reducing pain and easing muscle soreness.
Why is Everyone Talking About Cupping?
Olympic swimming fans everywhere are talking about cupping these days: a discussion brought on by Michael Phelps' and Cody Miller's purple-dotted shoulders during the 2016 Olympic games in Rio. Olympic gymnast Alex Naddour has also been seen sporting the hickey-like marks, and many other world-class athletes and celebrities admit to not only using cupping but benefiting from the treatment.
According to Reuters, sales of cupping therapy equipment rose by 20 percent in the three days following Phelps' big win. The International Cupping Therapy Association also reported a 50 percent increase of healthcare practitioners seeking out their cupping certificates" during that same timeframe. Acupuncture physicians have also reported an increase in inquiries about the treatment. Good news is that the physicians didn't just recently run out to get their cupping certificate due to the increase in demand. The physician's at Bay Area Integrative Health Care have been using cupping combined with acupuncture for over two decades.
Does Cupping Offer Relief for Pain Related Illness?
A study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine earlier this year found cupping significantly reduced chronic neck and shoulder pain, compared to no intervention. In the cupping group, the intensity of the neck pain was reduced from a severity score of 9.7 to 3.6. Among controls, pain was reduced from 9.7 to 9.5. The study also evaluated measurable physical effects, including changes in skin surface temperature and blood pressure.
Both measurements showed statistically significant improvements among those who received cupping. An earlier study comparing cupping to progressive muscle relaxation found both treatments provided similar pain relief for patients with chronic neck pain after 12 weeks. However, those who received cupping did report significantly greater "wellbeing" and higher pressure pain thresholds compared to those who practiced progressive muscle relaxation. Research published in 2012 also reported beneficial results on patients with arthritic knee pain. A meta-analysis of 50 studies published in PLOS One that same year found cupping "is of potential benefit for pain conditions, herpes zoster, cough and dyspnea." According to the authors:
"Meta-analysis showed cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments was significantly superior to other treatments alone in increasing the number of cured patients with herpes zoster, facial paralysis, acne and cervical spondylosis. No serious adverse effects were reported in the trials."
Patients receive optimal results and benefit from cupping treatment when it is preformed in addition to other integrative medicine services such as acupuncture/massage therapy. Please call the clinic directly to discuss adding a cupping treatment to your next appointment!