Cupping is an ancient healing therapy that some people use to ease pain. A provider places cups on your back, stomach, arms, legs or other parts of your body. Inside the cup, a vacuum or suction force pulls skin upward.
Cupping is a form of traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine. People have practiced cupping therapy for thousands of years.
Experts are still exploring how cupping eases pain and disease symptoms. There isn’t a lot of research on the therapy.
Suction from cupping draws fluid into the treated area. This suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin. Your body treats the cupping area like an injury. It sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process. Some people theorize that cupping clears the pores and releases toxins.
A variety of professionals can receive training to perform cupping, including:
People mostly use cupping to relieve conditions that cause pain. Some people say it also helps with chronic (ongoing) health issues. Cupping may ease symptoms of:
Most providers use glass or plastic cups, but cups may be:
There are different ways to perform cupping. The steps vary slightly depending on the chosen method. Your provider will leave the cups in place for several minutes. Some treatments involve briefly moving the cups to stretch and massage the area.
Depending on the treatment, your provider may place multiple cups on your skin. Cupping methods include:
The suction force from cupping breaks open tiny blood vessels under the skin. You will have round bruise-like marks that fade in a week or two.
Cupping is a relatively low-risk therapy. Still, you may experience:
Because researchers know little about cupping’s effects on pregnancy, moms-to-be shouldn’t get the therapy. You should also forego cupping if you have:
There aren’t many high-quality studies about the effectiveness of cupping. And researchers don’t know a lot about why or how cupping might help people. Cupping may provide a placebo effect, meaning it helps because people believe it does.
You should call your healthcare provider if you get cupping and experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cupping therapy may help ease certain symptoms, such as pain. Not much is known about the therapy’s effectiveness, how it works or what conditions it treats. While cupping is relatively safe, you should talk to your healthcare provider before trying the therapy.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 08/19/2020