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What is Cupping, and Does Cupping Work? A Zeel Investigation

What is Cupping, and Does Cupping Work? A Zeel Investigation

Woman lies peacefully during a cupping session.

If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ve no doubt seen Michael Phelps and other Olympians with a distinctive set of circular marks. These marks are caused by cupping, an  ancient technique used to relieve muscle pain and stimulate blood flow. Zeel Massage decided to look into this ancient art.

What is cupping?

Cupping involves creating suction on the skin with a heated cup and thus lifting the skin underneath.

While traditionally bamboo or horn cups were used, today the vast majority of cuppers use glass cups, which allow them to observe the skin during treatment.

The origins of cupping:

Cupping dates back to at least 400 BC, when it was mentioned in an herbalism manual in China.

Supposed benefits of cupping:

 Cupping supposedly works by stimulating pressure points and nerve meridians and unblocking “stuck” blood.

So what happens during cupping?

During a cupping session, you will lie on a table, bed, or other horizontal surface. Your skin may or may not be oiled. The cupping practitioner will heat cups, usually round glass cups, then quickly places them on soft areas of your body (the back or stomach, usually). The cups are left in place for five to ten minutes.

Does cupping hurt?

Cupping is typically not very painful,  and many find it relaxing. A session typically takes about 30 minutes.

What are the side effects of cupping?

Cupping is known for creating large circular marks on the body, which may take up to a week to fade. Bruising is also common.  (Gwyneth Paltrow famously displayed her cupping marks at an event back in 2004.)

Who should not do cupping?

People with bleeding disorders, fevers, or high-risk pregnancies should avoid cupping. Cupping should not be done on the face, so it is not suitable for above-the-neck ailments.

So.. does it work?

 Unclear. For most people, cupping is not harmful, so there’s no reason not to give it a whirl. If you’re looking for a proven way to reduce muscle pain and boost circulation, however, we’d stick to massage.


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