What Is Cupping?

Cupping is a technique in Traditional Chinese Medicine of treating ailments that are brought about by localized blockage such as common colds, stomach aches, headaches, abdominal pains, indigestion, low back pain, hypertension and arthritis. Practitioners of TCM know that the method of cupping is excellent in promoting good blood and energy circulation.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the basis of everything in the universe is the vital energy called Qi (chi). It flows in the body through a system of pathways (meridians). All diagnosis and treatment in TCM is based on the circulation of Qi. Diseases result from poor circulation of Qi. Cupping is believed to suck out the toxins in the body and relieve stagnant or blocked Qi (energy).

A cupping treatment begins as with any TCM treatments with a comprehensive patient diagnosis that involve questioning, examining the patient’s color, tongue and pulse, along with other methods. Cupping method is done by applying inverted cups with heated air inside on certain parts of the body to create a vacuum. Nowadays, cupping jars are typically made of glass in different sizes but they can also be made of plastic, wood or the traditional bamboo.

The heat inside the cup allows it to stick to the skin and pull it upward. The heated cups also provide a stimulating effect. The practitioner may keep the cups fixed or move them around to massage the area with the cup. Cupping is also commonly done in combination with acupuncture, another TCM method, which facilitates the flow of Qi by inserting fine needles into the body’s surface along certain energy points. To combine these two methods, a needle is inserted first and then covered with the cupping jar.

When the cupping jar draws up the underlying tissue, blood stasis will form and the cupped area will appear bruised. It is said the darker the area gets, the more stagnant the blood is in that area and the more toxins are released. While cupping normally results to bruising and some swelling, the actual session is not painful. As for the bruises, they are minor, harmless and will disappear in a few days.