What’s the deal with cupping?

20 April 2017 by
First published: 30 October 2016

You might be wondering: what’s the deal with cupping?

You may have noticed some of the athletes at the Olympic Games in Rio this summer were covered in bizarre circular marks. It turns out that these unusual marks aren’t evidence of an alien abduction, instead they are evidence of cupping therapy – a process that involves applying lightly flammable liquid glass cups to areas of swelling, creating suction on the body. So what’s the deal with cupping? Here’s our top 5 health benefits of this unusual therapy…

 Helps reduce pain

Cupping is a form of ancient Chinese medicine that is said to help treat parts of the body that suffer from pain. Dr Josh Axe, doctor of natural medicine and clinical nutritionist, explains more. ‘Cupping is thought to relax tense muscles and ease stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pains, migraines, rheumatism and fatigue. Some athletes have been known to use cupping therapy to naturally improve performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pains and scar tissue caused by injuries.’

Improves immune system

Some studies show that cupping therapy can help boost the immune system and is commonly used to keep the lungs restored and clear from any harmful congestion. ‘Cupping therapy can be useful for speeding up healing time from respiratory illnesses like the flu or common colds, says Dr Axe. ‘It does this by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which is why it’s been associated with reductions in lung diseases (especially chronic coughs), allergies, infections and asthma.’

Promotes relaxation

If you have seen videos of cupping therapy in action, then you’re probably thinking it must be anything but relaxing. However, according to Dr Axe it actually is. ‘Cupping often helps alleviate physical complaints and allows people to enter a more relaxed state, since it sedates the central nervous system. Once the cups are placed down and suctioned, they might need to remain still for up to 20 minutes, which forces stillness and silence on patients who might otherwise lead very hectic lives,’ Dr Axe explains.

Boosts skin health

It’s not only athletes who appear to be rocking the circular imprints, Hollywood stars Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow are also fans of cupping therapy. ‘Because cupping improves blood flow and might help lower inflammation, some studies have found it to be equally or even more effective at treating acne compared to antibiotics, says Dr Axe. ‘A meta-analysis of six studies showed that for improving acne, the cure rate of wet cupping was better than the cure rate following use of tanshinone, tetracycline and ketoconazole prescriptions.’

Improves digestion

Cupping can be an effective way to improve what’s going on inside your gut and reduce symptoms from digestion problems like irritable bowel syndrome. ‘Cupping therapy has been found to be beneficial for people with frequent stomach pains, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal diseases and water retention. It’s commonly performed in the following areas: around the navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys or over the stomach.’

Sounds interesting right? To find out more information about cupping therapy, check out Dr Axe’s article.