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Young woman receiving cuppuing thereapy


The Healing Power of Cupping

Elias Lu, DTCM,

Acupuncture Physician

Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine

St. Petersburg, Florida

What is Cupping?

Cupping involves applying a plastic suctioning cup (or several cups) onto the body to stimulate circulation, relax muscles, loosen adhesions, stimulate the peripheral nervous system, modulates the immune system, and decrease pain. In some cases, the cup may be moved on the skin providing a vacuum massage. Cupping has been around for thousands of years and is still used in medical facilities of Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. It is often used in conjunction with other treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and herbal medicine to enhance its therapeutic effects. Here, in the US, mainstream medicine relegates cupping to the rank of pseudoscience.


How Does It Work?
Cupping is a form of reflex (zone) therapy. The vacuum created by a suction cup causes micro extravasates (bruises) in the area. As these extravasates dissolve over a week or two, they stimulate the underlying organs by way of somato-visceral reflex (connections between skin and organ). So, you could say that cupping activates the body’s own localized as well as generalized healing powers.


Will You Use Open Fire?

Old days, that’s exactly how cupping was done. A doctor would place a flammable substance – such as alcohol, herbs, or paper – inside a suction cup and set it on fire. As the fire went out, he would apply the hot cup on your skin. Not anymore. Most acupuncturists utilize a rubber pump instead of open fire to create vacuum inside the cup.


Will the Spots on the Skin Remain Forever?

Of course not. The spots will go away in a week or two. Gradual resorption maintains the therapeutic effect.


What About Bleeding Therapy?

I rarely use needle-pricking as it would require an elaborate biohazard setup, which I don’t have. That said, the method is actually quite effective in conjunction with cupping for acute conditions and fever.


Can You List Five Most Common Indications for Cupping?

Here they are:


Pain Management: Cupping therapy is commonly used to alleviate musculoskeletal pain, such as back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. The suction created by the cups helps to loosen tight muscles, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation, resulting in pain relief and increased mobility.


Sports Medicine: Athletes often turn to cupping therapy to speed up recovery from injuries, reduce muscle soreness, and improve athletic performance. Cupping can help relax muscles, increase flexibility, and promote faster healing of sports-related injuries such as strains, sprains, and bruises.


Respiratory Conditions: Cupping therapy is believed to help alleviate respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and coughs by improving lung function, clearing congestion, and reducing inflammation in the airways. Cupping on the chest and back can help loosen phlegm, relieve chest tightness, and promote easier breathing.


Digestive Disorders: Cupping therapy may be beneficial for individuals with digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloating, and constipation. By stimulating blood flow to the digestive organs, cupping can help improve digestion, relieve abdominal discomfort, and promote detoxification.


Stress Relief: Cupping therapy has a calming and relaxing effect on the nervous system, making it an effective treatment for stress, anxiety, and insomnia. The gentle suction of the cups can help release tension, promote relaxation, and induce a sense of well-being.


Does It Really Work?

According to the recent scientific literature, cupping therapy has a wide range of applications, including:



Is It Safe?

Cupping is fairly safe, safer than many medications. But sure, you could experience some minor side effects such as skin irritation, bruising, and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. The risk of infection is negligible since I usually don’t add pricking (bloodletting) therapy.


Where Can I Try Cupping?

Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine, downtown St. Pete, 111 2nd Ave NE, third floor. Our “Open Wednesdays” is a good way to experience cupping (and other holistic therapies) without making a commitment.


Al-Bedah, A. M. N., Elsubai, I. S., Qureshi, N. A., Aboushanab, T. S., Ali, G. I. M., El-Olemy, A. T., Khalil, A. A. H., Khalil, M. K. M., & Alqaed, M. S. (2018). The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 9(2), 90–97.


Kim, S., Lee, S. H., Kim, M. R., Kim, E. J., Hwang, D. S., Lee, J., Shin, J. S., Ha, I. H., & Lee, Y. J. (2018). Is cupping therapy effective in patients with neck pain? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ open, 8(11), e021070.


Mehta, P., & Dhapte, V. (2015). Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine, 5(3), 127–134.

Picture of a confident acupuncturist

Dr. Elias Lu, DTCM is an acupuncture physician with Point of Cure Acupuncture and Electromedicine. In practice for over 25 years, he integrates traditional Chinese medicine with modern functional therapies to help people with chronic pain, trauma, neurodegenerative disorders, anxiety, depression, and many other life's challenges.

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