Relatively unknown to most people living in the West until recently, cupping massage or cupping therapy is an alternative therapeutic method that has been popular in China since around 1000 BC. Some records indicate that variations of cupping practices may actually be much older – possibly dating as far back as 3000 BC.

And for good reason. Cupping massage has a number of health benefits that can often outweigh the techniques of modern medicine.

One of the greatest advantages of trying alternative practices such as cupping therapy, acupuncture, or massage therapy, is that these methods do not pose the risk of unwanted side effects, as drug medications or surgery do.

In fact, there is really no downside to trying alternative practices like this, as studies show that they can help boost immune function and speed up healing time without the use of any medications or even herbs. And these are just some of the benefits of cupping massage.

Cupping massage and its health benefits

Most of the validity of cupping massage as an alternative medical practice comes from its long history of use over the past 3,000 years. Cupping techniques have been used extensively to treat a number of disorders and symptoms, sometimes on their own, or at other times in conjunction with other alternative practices. It is common for cupping massage to be used in conjunction with massage therapy, essential oils, acupuncture, or even as an adjunct to “western medicine” treatments.

What we do know from the limited scientific studies that have been done is that cupping works by expanding capillaries and increasing the amount of fluid that enters and leaves the tissues. In addition to this, cupping seems to elicit a relaxation response in some people, which means that it is helpful in reducing stress and its negative effects.

While there is much anecdotal evidence that this therapy can be effective and safe, to date there are very few clinical studies that have been conducted using humans, making it difficult to “prove” the many time-honored benefits of cupping massage. .

With that said, it has worked for millions of people over many years, so here are five ways that cupping massage might be able to help you.

1. Cupping massage helps reduce pain

One of the most common reasons people turn to alternative treatment methods is because they are looking for a safe way to naturally reduce joint pain and muscle pain.

After reviewing dozens of randomized clinical trial evidence of cupping therapies in patients with pain of any origin, a report published in evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that this therapy significantly reduced pain in people with lower back pain. Compared to usual treatments, they showed positive effects in treating cancer pain compared to anticancer drugs and pain relievers, and helped relieve pain associated with breathing problems.

Cupping therapy is believed to release tissues deep within the body , relax tense muscles, and relieve stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pain, migraines, rheumatism, and fatigue. Some athletes have been known to use cupping therapy to naturally enhance performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pain, and scar tissue caused by injuries.

The therapy goes right to the soft tissue by applying local pressure to weak spots and areas of inflammation. As blood flow increases within the vessels and capillaries, the tissues receive much-needed nutrients and oxygen.

Practitioners of this cupping technique use pressure, heat, aspiration, and needles above or below the injury site, allowing energy to travel along the “channels” (meridians) that pass through injury.

To help reduce pain, cupping is commonly placed in the following areas: on the fleshy part of the shoulder blades, on the groin / loin, on the neck (to relieve tension headaches, toothaches, or migraines) or around the lower back.

2. Promotes relaxation

It might seem counterproductive, but cupping often helps relieve physical symptoms and allows people to enter a more relaxed state as it is a central nervous system sedative. This is similar to acupuncture, you can assume it hurts and is uncomfortable, but it actually seems to help most patients’ lower stress responses and therefore offers protection against anxiety and depression.

How can cupping therapy offer relaxation? Just the act of lying down and taking charge during therapy sessions could have a positive effect on a person’s psychological well-being, which could be one reason why it is used to decrease mental illness.

Once the suction cups are down and suctioning, you may need to remain still for up to 20 minutes, forcing stillness and silence for patients who might otherwise lead very hectic lives.

According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, another reason why this therapy helps relaxation is because it helps raise pressure on tense muscles, which offers a sense of relief just as it is received. a deep tissue massage.

3. Cupping therapy increases skin health

This therapy is used to reduce herpes, cellulite, acne, and skin inflammation. While studies have not shown that it can necessarily help with weight loss, the fact that it tones and firms the skin, improving blood flow and expanding capillaries, makes it the popular spotlight among celebrities and individuals. who wish to have toned skin.

As part of a cellulite or skin lightening treatment, the oil is commonly applied to the skin first before using the suction cups and moving them around, thereby warming the area along with various skin-healing ingredients. , depending on the type of oil used.

Because this massage improves blood flow and can help reduce inflammation, some studies have found it to be just as or even more effective in treating acne compared to antibiotics. A meta-analysis of six studies showed that the cure rate with this cupping therapy was better than the cure rate with tanshinone, tetracycline, and ketoconazole prescriptions for improving acne .

4. Helps treat respiratory problems and colds

Often used to help nourish the lungs and clear phlegm or congestion, massage using cupping can be helpful in speeding the healing time of respiratory illnesses such as the flu or the common cold. It helps improve immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid through the body, which is why it has been associated with reductions in chronic lung diseases (especially coughs), allergies, infections, and asthma.

The treatment of cupping in respiratory conditions such as pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the oldest uses, and was used long before prescriptions were available.

5. Cupping improves digestion

Acupuncture and cupping are two popular ways to improve digestion and reduce symptoms of disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This could be mainly due to the fact that they can decrease a patient’s response to stress, which is highly linked to healthy digestive function.

Throughout history, cupping therapy has been found to be beneficial for people with frequent stomach aches, diarrhea, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal illnesses, and water retention. For digestive disorders, massage is frequently performed in the following areas: around the navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys or stomach.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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