Chinese suction cups (cupping therapy): principle, benefits, precautions

On the back, on the stomach or on the legs… The red marks that can sometimes be seen on the bodies of athletes always arouse curiosity. Big names in sport, such as Michael Phelps or Alexander Naddour, regularly use a technique called cupping therapy (or cupping). Based on the use of traditional Chinese cupping, it promises to relax, drain and detoxify the body. We take stock of its benefits, how it works and its contraindications.

What is cupping therapy?

Practiced for millennia, cupping therapy is based on the use of suction cups from the arsenal of traditional Chinese medicine. In the past, these small bells were made of cow horn, clay or bamboo. Today, there are traditional suction cups, made of bamboo, but most suction cups are made glass, plastic or plexiglass.

In concrete terms, they are placed on specific areas of the human body – acupuncture points and painful places – to act by suction effect on the circulation, and thus release tension, stimulate the body and soothe many pathologies. The pose is not painful and lasts a maximum of twenty minutes. Cupping can also be used in motion on oiled skin.

What are the benefits of Chinese cupping?

Let’s be clear, cupping is not intended to cure, but to relieve symptoms. They are used in addition to a global approach, for their mechanical or energy properties. According to traditional Chinese medicine, they release the “fluids”, guarantors of our balance and our vital energy. The influx of blood under the suction cups stimulates blood circulation, which allows in particular:

  • to relieve the symptoms of stress,
  • reduce sleep disturbances,
  • to improve the appearance of cellulite,
  • to calm dermatological, digestive or gynecological pain,
  • to resolve blockages (torticollis) and back problems,
  • accelerate the recovery of tired muscles,
  • to fight against respiratory ailments, rheumatic,
  • relieve sprains and other tendinitis,
  • treat pain due to osteoarthritis and neuralgia,
  • etc

Physiotherapist, osteopath, doctor… Who and when to consult?

If the technique intrigues you and you want to test, make sure you are supported by a trained and experienced professional. The suction cups can in particular be placed by osteopaths, physiotherapists, sports coaches. Doctors and nurses can also train in this technique to complete their care offer. The advantage? Combine the placement of suction cups with the different specialties according to its problems.

As indicated above, cupping can be used preventively or curatively, but does not replace ongoing treatment.

They can be used daily in the event of a painful crisis, before or after intense physical exertion (to prepare the body and reduce the appearance of aches), or once a weekPrevention.

We prefer morning sessions to wake up the body. During the day, they are ideal for relaxing after a stressful event or annoyance. And in the evening, they allow me to release my tensions and improve the quality of sleep.

Chinese cupping can be used on fixed points : we put them down for several minutes – 2 to 20 minutes according to the parts of the body – or in massageto improve blood circulation.

Each session always begins with a time of discussion with the practitioner. We take stock and then define the strategy: what suction cup technique to use? at what intensity? on what points? etc The “fixed” cupping therapy can be practiced in different ways:

  • hot : we approach a flame of the bell in order to empty it of its air thanks to the combustion of oxygen and we place it on the back of the person.
  • Cold : the practitioner uses a suction cup with a manual pump which, by a mechanical suction effect, will empty the air present in the bell.
  • with blood extraction : when the suction of the skin is accompanied by small cuts, we speak of wet cupping therapy,or with blood extraction. This technique aims in fact to remove the blood accumulated in certain specific areas of the body, thanks to suctions, in particular in order to stimulate the immune system.

As for the second option, which consists of using suction cups in the context of massages, we start by applying oil to the area concerned, then we place the suction cup and exert a slight pressure. Then just glide it over the skin, from bottom to top, in order to respect blood circulation and lymphatic circulation. This technique is particularly recommended to fight against dimpling and the orange peel appearance.

The areas of application are numerous. As a general rule, we prefer:

  • the belly in case of digestive disorders, stress, sleep disorders, skin problems.
  • the back, neck, trapezius, in case of tension.
  • Lbuttocks and thighs in case of sciatica, for recovery or sports preparation.

Cupping therapy: contraindications and side effects?

The cupping therapy is not supposed to be painful, but the intervention can surprise the first times: it is possible to feel a feeling of warmth (but no burns, in which case notify your practitioner). The suction effect creates a call for blood at the suction cup. Hematomas will be visible for 2 to 4 days and will appear less and less during the sessions.

Apart from these traces of suction, if all the precautions have been taken upstream, there is no particular risk. Be careful to choose an experienced professional, because cupping therapy can cause skin ulceration if it is repeatedly practiced incorrectly.

The use of suction cups is contraindicated in the following cases:

  • pregnancy,
  • early childhood (under 5 years old),
  • cardiac pathologies,
  • suspected muscle hematoma,
  • recent burns, sunburns and wounds,
  • hemophilia or taking anti-coagulant treatment,
  • varicose veins.

The installation of the suction cups must be carried out in conditionirreproachable hygienic conditionsespecially in case of wet cupping therapy.

How much does it cost ? Is this technique supported?

The price of a cupping session differs according to the quality and the number of suction cups used, according to the expertise and notoriety of the professional, but also according to his place of practice. It is not covered by Social Security.

It is also possible to buy a chinese cupping kit online. The bells are, in fact, sold in packs of ten suction cups, or more, of different diameters, which can be used on all areas of the body. As a novice, however, you must pay close attention to the precautions for use and follow his feelings.

Chinese suction cups (cupping therapy): principle, benefits, precautions