Cupping Therapy

Cupping Therapy

Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is a popular treatment technique of traditional Chinese medicine and one of the oldest natural therapies practiced since early human civilisation. Evidence shows that it was first practiced by the Ancient Egyptians more than 5,500 years ago.

Also known as “fire cupping”, a flame is used to create a vacuum inside a glass cup that makes it suction onto the body. Multiple cups are applied during a treatment.

There are many types and styles of cupping therapy, however, dry and wet cupping are the two main types. Dry cupping does not involve any bleeding, while in wet cupping the skin is cut so that blood is drawn into the cup.

At Ping Ming Health, our practitioners strictly do not practice wet cupping and our cupping techniques are adapted to be very comfortable and relaxing for our clients, including young children.

What does it feel like?

Most people enjoy the feeling of cupping which feels like pressure and suction. The pressure is adjusted to make these treatments feel strong yet comfortable for each person. Cupping can give immediate relief to stiff muscles and make the body feel looser and lighter afterwards.

Functions and effects

Cupping is often used by our practitioners as part of a treatment plan.

When practiced by Chinese medicine practitioners, cupping is applied along the acupuncture channels and over specific areas of the body to improve circulation to the internal organs and clear accumulated toxins and pathogens from deeper parts of the body.

Cupping directly promotes circulation to the muscles and connective tissues and reduces pain caused by Qi and Blood Stagnation.

Modern scientific research has found that cupping has different mechanisms of action that overlap or work interchangeably to have therapeutic effects on specific ailments and diseases (Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al., 2018):

Pain reduction and changes in biomechanics properties of the skin could be explained by the “Pain-Gate Theory”, “Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls” and “Reflex zone theory”.

Muscle relaxation, changes in local tissue structures and increase in blood circulation might be explained by “Nitric Oxide theory”.

Immunological effects and hormonal adjustments might be attributed to “Activation of immune system theory”.

Releasing of toxins and removal of wastes and heavy metals might be explained by “Blood Detoxification Theory”.

Research has also found cupping to be potentially beneficial for a wide range of conditions such as low back pain, ankylosing spondylitis, knee osteoarthritis, neck pain, herpes zoster, migraine, plaque psoriasis, and chronic urticaria (Choi TY, Ang L, Ku B, Jun JH, Lee MS, 2021):

What do my cupping marks mean?

Cupping causes temporary marks that can range in colour from pale pink to bright red to dark purple. This is a sign of the circulation being activated and the colour reflects the amount of stagnation and toxins being released.

Medically speaking, the skin marks that appear after cupping are not bruises (haematomas) which are painful swellings after an injury. Instead, cupping marks are not painful and described as erythema, edema, and ecchymosis in the areas where cups are placed.

The skin marks will clear completely usually within 1 to 2 weeks. We suggest drinking a glass of warm water to help the body clear toxins released after your treatment.


Cupping is a well-known treatment of traditional Chinese medicine, but like all treatments it is not suitable in every situation or for every person. Our traditional Chinese medicine practitioners will advise you if cupping is suitable following the diagnosis of each specific health issue.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Cupping Therapy. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Journal of Clinical Medicine

2021, Apr 17

Evidence Map of Cupping Therapy
Journal of Clinical Medicine

Cupping has been applied in a variety of clinical areas, and systematic reviews in a few of these areas have demonstrated statistically significant benefits. The evidence map provides a visual overview of cupping research volume and findings. Evidence mapping can facilitate the transfer of knowledge from researchers to policymakers and promote research on musculoskeletal pain (such as low back pain, neck pain, and knee osteoarthritis) and skin disease (plaque psoriasis).

Choi TY, Ang L, Ku B, Jun JH, Lee MS Full Article

Pain Management: Practices, Novel Therapies and Bioactives

2020, Sep 25

The Role of Cupping Therapy in Pain Management: A Literature Review
Pain Management: Practices, Novel Therapies and Bioactives

Cupping therapy is an ancient complementary medicine practice which has been used for thousands of years for a variety of common medical problems. The current evidence is suggesting that cupping therapy may be effective in treating common chronic painful conditions for a short period. Yet, most of available studies have major limitations like small sample size, and different outcome assessment tools, duration of treatment, and treatment regimens. Publication bias is another important drawback, as most of the available studies were conducted in a single country. Future good quality, multicenter clinical trials utilizing standardized protocols are needed.

Asma Al-Shidhani, Abdulaziz Al-Mahrezi Full Article

Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine

2018, Apr 30

The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine Ministry of Health and Welfare, Taiwan

Apparently, no single theory exists to explain the whole effects of cupping. Further researches are needed to support or refute the aforesaid theories, and also develop innovative conceptualizations of (CT) in future.

Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al. Full Article

Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences

2015, Jan

An overview of systematic reviews of clinical evidence for cupping therapy
Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences Beijing University of Chinese Medicine

Cupping therapy may be beneficial for pain-related conditions (herpes zoster, low back pain), acne, and facial paralysis. However, an explicit conclusion could not be drawn due to the low quality of the original studies. Larger well-designed trials are needed to validate the therapeutic efficacy of cupping therapy for those and other diseases. Factors such as frequency of cupping and overall treatment duration should also be investigated.

Huijuan Cao, Mei Han, Xiaoshu Zhu, Jianping Liu Full Article

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