On the back, the stomach… Cupping Therapy is part of the arsenal of traditional Chinese medicine to relax, drain and detoxify the body. They are effective in treating tendonitis, sprains and aches. Instructions for use and contraindications with Benjamen Illouz, osteopath.
What is Chinese cupping therapy?
Chinese cupping has been part of the arsenal of traditional Chinese medicine for over 2000 years. The first uses date back to ancient Egypt, 1550 B.C. They are traditionally used to stimulate blood circulation, lymph, and energy in the body. Once made of cow horn or bamboo, today they are most often made of glass, plastic or plexiglass.
What are the principles of cupping therapy in Chinese medicine?
The suction cups, in the shape of a bell or cylinder, are placed on the skin at the acupuncture points along the meridians, and more generally “at the places felt to be painful”, explains Benjamain Illouz, osteopath. By the effect of vacuum of air under the bell, they exert a suction of the skin and the muscle of the targeted zone, in order to relax and to unblock.
The influx of blood that appears on the surface of the skin in the area under the bell is a normal phenomenon. “The suction cup makes the blood rise, the sign generally of a lot of impurities, you should not worry about it, reassures the practitioner. The hematoma will be visible for 2 to 4 days. As the sessions progress, the phenomenon will fade away”.
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, the appearance of pain in a point is the sign of a dysfunction of the corresponding organ. The suction cup is then positioned on the painful point to free the organ from its blockages.
The air vacuum under the glass bell is obtained by burning the oxygen by approaching a flame, or with the help of a manual pump in a more modern version on plastic suction cups. The suction effect on the skin can be “dosed”, more or less strong, to adapt to the needs of each person. The suction cups can be fixed on the tension points of the body, or mobile as a massage tool on a previously oiled skin. They are then manipulated by the practitioner.
What are the Cupping Therapy benefits?
Chinese medicine recommends the use of suction cups with a global energetic goal to circulate the “fluids” that guarantee the balance of the body, its vital energy, and consequently good health. The influx of blood on the area where the suction cup is positioned will drain the toxins. “The suction effect allows the blood to circulate where the suction cup is placed. This localized congestion reduces pain, unties blockages, accelerates the recovery of tired muscles and improves tissue repair” says the osteopath who recommends their use in case of :
- back pain, lumbago
- headaches, when the neck is stiff
- sprains, even old ones
- tingling related to the carpal tunnel
- sports recovery
- sleep disorders
- digestive problems
- skin problems.
When to do cupping therapy?
“The use of cupping can be preventive or curative, but does not replace an ongoing treatment. Cupping is used as an effective aid, as a complement to medicine and not as a substitute,” says the expert. Cupping can be applied every day in case of a pain crisis, or as a preventive measure once a week.”
- In cases of stress, “it is advisable to practice cupping at night before sleeping. This allows to release all the tensions of the body.”
- In case of muscle pain, joint pain. “The traumas of the past remain in memory in the body. This memory is not mental, but often muscular. Thanks to cupping, it is possible to recover almost completely and naturally. The effects are often immediate and long-lasting” underlines the osteopath who recommends the use on even old sprains.
- “In the morning when you wake up: if the body is tense as soon as you get up (stiff neck, difficulty in bending down, tense stomach).”
- During the day: to relax after a stressful event or an upset.
- Before sleeping: beneficial to the quality of sleep. It allows to release the body and the tensions accumulated during the day.
- Before a physical effort: on the muscular zones which will be the most solicited by the sporting practice. A relaxed muscle performs better. The effects of contraction and resistance will be optimized.
- After an intense and long-lasting effort to recover and reduce the appearance of aches and pains.”
Using Chinese cupping (on the back, stomach): how does it work?
Each person and “each body is different. It is important to rely on one’s own feelings. The regular and not excessive use of the cups makes it possible to learn and understand the effects on oneself, and to appreciate the benefits, indicates Benjamen Illouz. As the sessions progress, the body will get used to and better support the acupressure of the cups. It is then possible to accentuate the suction, “according to one’s feeling, without exceeding four suctions” by pumping in the framework of a plexiglass suction cup. “On a painful zone, it is preferable to leave 5 minutes and to move the suction cup on another point in the zone, rather than to leave 20 minutes in the same place” he recommends. For a massage effect and improved blood circulation, “apply body oil to the chosen area. Place the suction cup and pump lightly to move it, then slide up and down or left and right”. The massage is recommended to fight against cellulite. There are multiple application areas, wherever pain is felt.
- On the stomach, about 3 cm above the navel, in case of digestive disorders, stress, sleep disorders, skin problems.
- On the back, the neck, the trapezius, in case of tensions.
- On the cellulite, to fight against the capitons and the orange peel aspect.
- On the buttocks, thighs in case of sciatica, for a recovery or a sports preparation.
Where to practice cupping therapy?
Cupping can be done by an osteopath, a physiotherapist, a sports coach experienced in the method, or by yourself thanks to cupping packs. The advantage of going through a practitioner is to be able to “couple the application of suction cups with osteopathy in order to work on the origin of the problem. Moreover, a relaxed muscle is easier to work on” underlines the expert.
Buying a Chinese cupping kit: price and precautions
The purchase of a kit of suction cups is interesting to practice at home, even if you are a novice. “A pack of ten suction cups of different diameters allows you to practice on all areas. It is advisable to refer to the booklet provided in the box to learn how to use it, to know the precautions of use, and to be attentive to what you feel, warns Benjamen Illouz. On a sensitive skin, little suction is needed. On a scar, a wound or a skin problem, it is necessary to shift the installation next to the injured area.” There are kits at all prices, from 15 euros to over 100 euros. “The easiest to use are those in plexiglass, solid and effective. Do not exceed 10 minutes of pose. For children: not before 5 years. Always carry out a very weak depression. Between 5 and 7 years, do not exceed 5 minutes of pose”, recommends the practitioner.
Contraindications of Chinese Cupping
The action of the suction cups is not appropriate in the following cases:
- Heart failure or severe heart disease.
- Suspicion of hemorrhage.
- Open wound, recent scar or after an operation.
- Fracture, burn or sunburn area.
- Pregnant women during the first three months of pregnancy and on the abdomen and pelvic area during the entire pregnancy.
- Children under 5 years old.
- Never put a suction cup on the navel, the sex or the nipples.
- Do not apply on very sensitive skin or on skin problems, varicose veins.