By Jessica, May 31, 2012
Chinese cupping, or suction therapy, is a form of traditional alternative medicine popular in Asia. Often provided alongside acupuncture or acupressure, its benefits are said to be both physical and spiritual.
During a treatment, a lit match is briefly placed inside a small, rounded glass to remove oxygen and reduce the pressure inside the glass. The match is removed and the glass is quickly placed on the skin, usually on the back. The result of the reduced pressure is that the skin is gently drawn up into the glass and held there.
The process is repeated with a number of glasses, with the therapist placing them on strategic parts of the back. Depending on the individual treatment, glasses may be left in place or slowly dragged across the skin as part of a massage. Following treatment, the skin may bear large, round marks that appear bruise-like, but this should subside by the following day.
The heat of the treatment is said to loosen muscles and nerve endings which have become tensed, while the suction helps to draw out toxins and boost circulation and energy levels. Traditionally, cupping was used to treat respiratory problems and it is said to be particularly effective in improving lung function.
The spiritual element of the treatment is based on the Yin and Yang approach, aiming to flush out any excessive Yang, which may be causing illness, and restoring the revitalising Yin. It is also said to have an effect on the body’s Qi, or energy. Ancient Chinese beliefs were that Qi can become stagnant, and cupping provides it with a boost by drawing it closer to the skin’s surface.