Cupping is a type of alternative medicine based on an ancient Chinese practice in which a special type of cup is applied to the skin and suction is created so the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. It is often used for pain relief and musculoskeletal injuries.
The purpose of cupping is to increase blood circulation to the area in which the cups are placed. This in turn is believed to reduce pain and promote healing.
A 2012 review of studies on cupping therapy found that cupping might be effective in treating certain conditions, such as:
However, the analysis found a lack of well-designed investigations and a high risk of bias in those studies that were reviewed, and it was advised that more study was needed to determine whether cupping was effective for these and other conditions.
Other reported uses for cupping include:
- Treatment of pain
- Soft tissue injury
- Headaches and migraines
- Shoulder blades
- Relief of muscle tension
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Respiratory diseases
- Gynecological Disorders
Research is still needed to determine if cupping is effective for any of these conditions.
What Are Side Effects of Cupping?
The main side effect of cupping is bruising and occasional soreness, which is to be expected after a session.
Cupping should not be used:
- Over wounds, skin ulcers, or recent trauma
- On inflamed skin
- On sunburned skin
- If a high fever is present
- On the abdominal area, lower back, and certain acupuncture points during pregnancy
- In patients taking blood-thinning medication
- When there are convulsions or cramping
- In people who bleed easily (i.e., pathological level of low platelets)
- On children under age four, and only for five minutes on children up to the age of seven, and ten minutes on children ages seven through fourteen
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