How is cupping done?

The cups used in a cupping procedure are usually made of glass or plastic. Other types are made of bamboo, iron, or pottery.

There are three types of cupping: “dry,” “air,” and “wet”:

  • In dry cupping, the caregiver soaks a cotton ball or other material in alcohol, lights it, and places it inside the cup to remove the oxygen. The cup is then placed on the patient’s body. Removing the oxygen creates a vacuum, which attaches the cup to the skin.
  • In air cupping, the cup is placed on the skin and a suction device removes the air from the cup to create the vacuum.
  • In wet cupping, the caregiver punctures the skin slightly to draw a small amount of blood, and then places the cup on the patient’s body. The skin is punctured to allow toxins to leave the body.

The cups are placed most often on the back, stomach, arms, and legs. In all of the procedures, the cup pulls the skin upward into a rounded shape.

The cups are left on the skin for several minutes. Several cups can be placed on the skin at the same time, depending on the condition that is being treated.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/10/2017.


  • National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. In the News: Cupping Accessed 4/26/2017.
  • Yuan Q, Guo T, Lie L, et al. Traditional Chinese Medicine for Neck Pain and Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2015; 10(2): e0117146.
  • National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. The Science of Cupping Accessed 4/26/2017.
  • Acupuncture Today. Cupping Accessed 4/26/2017.

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