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Natural Health Approach: Cupping

Cupping therapy offers a myriad of health benefits
Cupping is a therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (Metro)

By Paul Gaucher, co-owner of Creston Acupuncture and Natural Health Centre

Cupping therapy has remained a vital part of ancient medicine in one form or another for thousands of years. Some historians believe the Chinese invented cupping, while the earliest pictographic records suggest that it is the ancient Egyptians who invented this technique at around 1500 B.C.

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates – a physician by profession and who is regarded as the father of modern medicine, used cupping therapy for treating internal disease and muscular injuries. Hippocrates recommended the use of cupping for treating ailments such as angina, menstrual irregularities, and other disorders in his guide to clinical treatment. While cupping therapies using heat have the longest history in Asian countries, cupping has also been used in the Middle East for centuries. Recently, cupping has become more popular in the U.S. and Canada, as athletes incorporate it into their recovery protocols to speed healing. Today, you can find cupping therapy offered in many holistic Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics, and some massage therapy clinics.

Cups are commonly made out of durable materials, such as glass or heat-resistant plastic or silicone. The exact type of cup used depends on the practitioner’s preference and the patient’s condition. Cups come in different materials, shapes, and sizes, which means some are more useful for targeting certain ailments than others. The most popular technique for cupping, called “dry cupping” involves a trained practitioner placing heated glass cups on the patients back. “Moving cupping” is similar but involves applying massage oil to the skin first, which allows the practitioner to glide the heated cups over tense areas on the patient’s body, similar to massage. A small mechanical suction pump can also be used in the case of applying plastic cups. The cups are sealed off and held in place for 15 to 30 minutes on the patient’s back, which produces a vacuum effect. This is considered a type of “fixed cupping” because the cups aren’t moved around but rather, sit still. Cupping can be combined with acupuncture needles in specific treatments where the muscular tension is severe. Cupping is used first to decrease the tension, and acupuncture needles are used afterward to reinforce the healing process further.

One of the most common reasons people turn to alternative treatment methods is because they’re looking for a safe way to naturally reduce joint and muscle pain. Cupping is thought to release tissues deep inside the body, relax tense muscles, and ease stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pain, migraines, rheumatism, and fatigue. Some athletes have been known to use cupping therapy to naturally improve performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pain, and scar tissue caused by injuries. Cupping targets soft tissue by applying local pressure to pain points and areas of swelling. As blood flow increases within vessels and capillaries, tissues receive much-needed nutrients and oxygen.

In our fast-paced and stress-filled lives, cupping therapy also offers a moment of tranquility. The therapy activates the parasympathetic nervous system, inducing a state of deep relaxation. The gentle suction sensation and the warm feeling associated with the cups promote a sense of calm that relieves stress. This relaxation can have a profound impact on mental well-being by reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality. Cupping therapy is often considered a form of self-care that promotes mindfulness and nurtures a positive mind-body connection.

Cupping therapy can also benefit the skin, enhancing its health and appearance. The suction action of the cups stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, which are essential for maintaining skin elasticity and firmness. The increased blood flow to the skin also nourishes the tissues and improves their overall vitality. Cupping therapy has been utilized to minimize the appearance of cellulite by targeting the underlying connective tissues, breaking down fat deposits, and improving lymphatic drainage. The result is smoother, healthier looking skin.

Cupping is also commonly used to help nourish the lungs and clear away phlegm or congestion, and is one of the oldest uses for speeding up healing time from respiratory illnesses like the flu or common colds. Cupping helps improve immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which is why it’s been associated with reductions in lung diseases, chronic coughs, allergies, infections, and asthma.

This therapy is not recommended for small children, pregnant women, or people with clotting disorders. Most patients describe the feeling as pressure on the skin that’s warm and pleasantly comfortable. After cupping, there may be a slight circular bruise in the area; this is normal and will disappear within a few days. Multiple treatments may be needed depending on the discoloration after each treatment.

Cupping therapy offers a myriad of health benefits that extend beyond pain relief. This ancient practice continues to demonstrate its effectiveness in promoting overall well-being. Consider exploring cupping therapy as a holistic addition to your wellness routine. It’s important to find a well-trained practitioner who is licensed and follows guidelines in using cupping tools to ensure you get the most benefit from your sessions.

Feel free to contact me if this therapy resonates with you, as it can be a valuable therapeutic option. I wish you well in your health!

Paul Gaucher co-owns Creston Acupuncture & Natural Health Centre, currently located in downtown Creston. For more information or to book an appointment, you can book directly at or call the clinic at 250-428-0488. For further questions about what acupuncture and herbal medicine can treat, you can e-mail Paul directly at