Cupping refers to an ancient art in which cups are applied to the acupuncture points/skin and the pressure inside the cup is reduced. This is accomplished through one of two methods, igniting a small swab dipped in alcohol under the cup then quickly removing it, while simultaneously placing the cup on the area of skin to be treated.
The second, and more practical method, is to use a suction system which is attached to cup prior to placing the cup on the skin. Once the cup is in place, a pump is activated drawing out the air. In either technique the goal is to draw the skin and superficial muscle layer and hold it within the cup. In some cases the cup may be moved while the suction is applied causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle. This is accomplished by the addition of a lubricating agent such as massage oil and is often referred to "gliding cupping." The result is a reddened area which subsides following treatment. Some bruising can occur.
Cups are usually left in place for 5 to 15 minutes. Cupping is used for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, lung conditions such as chronic cough and bronchitis, paralysis, and pain. It can also be used for many other disorders.