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What Is Cupping?

Cupping, simply put, is akin to receiving a few of the deepest massages you've ever had, but done more gracefully, and in 5-7 minutes during a single treatment.  Cupping is a tremendously helpful technique for pain cases as well as many other conditions.  When combined with acupuncture and massage, the use of cupping will often cut down the number of treatments required for alleviation of pain by 30-70% in my experience.

The general idea is that stagnation of circulation in the muscles and body tissues will lead to pain and other illnesses.  Cupping improves the circulation in these areas and pain is alleviated and underlying health issues are often helped.  Cupping helps such issues as generalized pain, injuries of the back/shoulders/neck, etc., herniated discs, disc degeneration, arthritis, and other conditions such as asthma, colds and flus, insomnia, etc.


What Does It Involve?

Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China, although some form of cupping has been used for centuries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction.

People use cupping to complement their care for a host of issues and conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains. Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.

Cupping involves the application of glass or plastic cups which adhere to the body through the use of a pump or by heat (see illustration).  The most common method is by heat, which is done by waving a burning cotton ball that had been soaked in alcohol through the cup quickly to create a vacuum.  You do not feel the heat, but you will feel the cup pull up on the skin.  The cups are used over certain acupuncture points and/or over areas of pain.

Once the cups are attached, they are generally left on for 5-15 minutes and are removed by simply pressing down on the skin and letting the air out.  They do leave a mark on the body which lasts for about 4-10 days depending on the condition.  The mark is very useful as a diagnostic tool - the darker the mark, the more stagnation there is in the muscles.  As the marks lighten through progressive treatments, it is a sign that the underlying conditions are improving.


What is our method?

At Austin Onsite Acupuncture, classical cupping is performed using clean glass cups that are rounded like balls and open on one end.

During a cupping treatment, the patients’ skin that is to be treated is at first disinfected with 75 proof alcohol.  At Austin Onsite Acupuncture a long metal tool called a hemostat clips firmly to a large cotton ball which is soaked briefly in 91 proof alcohol and lit with a long lighter. The flame very quickly burns out the oxygen inside the glass cup, thus creating a suction. The fire source is removed, the fire extinguished and the cup is placed with the open side onto your skin. Your expertly trained practitioner adjusts the intensity of the suction to each patients’ personal level of comfort to ensure a very comfortable treatment process.


The cup or cups can be left in place or a lotion applied to the muscle groups being treated prior to administering cups and then slid gently over a tight or sore muscle. This process of gently gliding a cup is called RUNNING CUPPING. It is a very effective form of treatment for tired sore muscles and is considered an advanced form of this modality. Usually only one or two cups are needed for effective treatment.


Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for everyone. Extra caution should be taken for the following groups:

•     Children. Children under 4 years old shouldn’t receive cupping therapy. We do not treat children with cupping at our clinic

•     Seniors. Our skin becomes more fragile as we age. Any medication you may be taking might have an effect as well.

•     Pregnant people. Avoid cupping the abdomen and lower back.

•     Those who are currently menstruating.

•     Those with active esczema or psoriasis

Don’t use cupping if you use blood-thinning medication. Also avoid cupping if you have:

•     a sunburn

•     a wound

•     a skin ulcer

•     experienced recent trauma

•     an internal organ disorder


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