Cupping therapy is a traditional Chinese and Middle Eastern practice that people use to treat a variety of conditions.
It involves placing cups at certain points on a person’s skin. A practitioner creates suction in the cups, which pulls against a person’s skin.
Cupping can either be dry or wet. Wet cupping involves puncturing the skin before starting the suction, which removes some of the person’s blood during the procedure.
Cupping typically leaves round bruises on a person’s skin, where their blood vessels burst after exposure to the procedure’s suction effects.
Does it work?
Cupping practitioners claim that it works by creating hyperemia or hemostasis around a person’s skin. This means that it either increases or decreases a person’s blood flow under the cups.
Cupping also has links to acupoints on a person’s body, which are central to the practice of acupuncture.
Many doctors consider cupping therapy a complementary therapy, which means that many do not recognize it as part of Western medicine. This does not mean that it is not effective, however.
Complementary therapies with supporting research may be an addition to Western medicine. However, as the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) note, there is not yet enough high-quality research to prove cupping’s effectiveness.
Scientists have linked cupping therapy with a variety of health benefits, although there needs to be more research to determine whether it is effective as a treatment.
People frequently cite cupping therapy as a form of pain relief. However, while there is some evidence for its effectiveness, scientists need to conduct more high-quality studies to demonstrate this fully.
Side effects and risks
According to the NCCIH, the side effects of cupping can include:
- lasting skin discoloration
If a person has a skin condition such as eczemaor psoriasis, cupping may make it worse on the area where the practitioner applies the cups.
In rare instances, a person may experience more significant internal bleeding or anemia if the practitioner takes too much blood during wet cupping.
According to a study paper that appears in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, cupping can also cause:
Due to the poor quality of studies investigating cupping, it is difficult to know how common these side effects are.
If a person has any of these side effects following cupping therapy, they should speak to a medical professional. Some people may have health conditions, such as problems with blood clotting, that making cupping less than ideal.