6 Ways the Ancient Chinese Relaxation Practice of Cupping Can Improve Your Health

( - Cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine dating all the way back to 1550 B.C.. Once primarily used in Egyptian, Middle Eastern and Chinese societies, it has seen a rise in popularity in Europe and America over recent years and is now one of the most sought after treatments in the alternative health field. Typically, the neck, back and legs are cupped although the process is occasionally performed on the abdomen and arms.

The therapy involves placing either a glass, bamboo, or earthenware cup against the skin and creating suction against it in order to promote circulation. Suction is applied using heat and the cups remain against the skin for five to fifteen minutes, creating a vacuum. Cupping then helps treat pain, alleviate muscle tension, improve blood flow, and stimulate lymphatic fluid movement and helps clear any toxic blockages in the body.

While traditional medicine has been reluctant to acknowledge the healing powers of ancient cupping therapy and has called it a fad, the alternative health industry can’t stop raving about it. It’s been shown to help improve the immune system’s functions as well as protect the body against the common cold, allergies, and a host of other problems such as acne and blood disorders.

Athletes swear by it as a means to help ease muscle tension and improve their physical performance. In turn, celebrities are routinely spotted with tell-tale cupping marks on their backs — fuelling public interest in the treatment and eventually bringing it to the masses.

Here are some of cupping’s amazing health benefits:

1. Alleviates Muscle Tension

Cupping is especially beneficial for athletes or for those who routinely put their body through periods of of strenuous exercise. Muscles become stiff after being pushed to their limits, which can result in pain or tension — often centered in the mid to lower back. Cupping uses negative pressure (the opposite of massage) to relieve rigidness in muscle tissue, release lactic acid and drain the excess fluids that build up after an intense workout. The process can also soothe muscle spasms and help speed up the healing process behind muscle injuries. The knots causing tension within the body’s muscles will quickly soften and disappear typically after just a 5 to 10 minute cupping session.

2. Rids the Body of Toxins

Surprisingly, the dark, circular bruise marks that appear on the backs of people who have been cupped are a sign that the treatment has been effective. When there is excess blood, lymph, cellular debris and toxins in the body, the cupping will leave noticeable marks after the stagnant matter has been moved from deeper tissues to the surface of the skin. The dark marks are often misinterpreted as a sign of damage instead of one of healing.

Luckily, they only take a couple of days to a few weeks to disappear — depending on how sick or sedentary the person was before treatment. Cupping is one of the most effective natural ways to rid the body of toxins and harmful matter, with many patients finding noticeable relief from their health problems within just a few sessions.

3. Promotes Blood Circulation

Cupping is a great practice for anyone suffering from poor circulation, inflammation or cramping. Before getting into why, it’s important to highlight that there are two different types of cupping procedures: Dry cupping involves stimulating the skin by suction and is recommended for patients with anemia or heavy menstrual flow. Wet cupping, on the other hand, involves blood-letting by puncturing the skin with tiny needles before the suction is applied. This alternate method is suggested for those with a stronger constitution or those experiencing high blood pressure and weight gain. Both suction methods are effective at promoting blood circulation in order to reduce inflammation, disease, cramping and pain caused by muscle tension. The increase in circulation speeds up organ function and encourages the flow of lymphatic fluids in order to promote optimal health.

4. Helps Fight Off the Common Cold

Catching the common cold is typically a sign that the body’s immune system is too overwhelmed to fight off foreign invaders. A sluggish immune system means that there’s an abundance of toxins hanging out in the body and that it’s having a hard time protecting itself against other viruses and diseases. Cupping allows the immune system to find balance again by unclogging blockages in the body and ridding it of excess toxins. Once these harmful blockages are cleared, you’ll be left feeling more energized and healthy and will be better prepared to fight off the common cold. In addition, people already suffering from a cold will find relief in their symptoms as the cupping promotes fluid drainage and reduces inflammation.

5. Eases Anxiety and Depression

The relaxing act of a cupping session can act as a powerful method to combat anxiety. By having negative pressure applied to the body, the patient feels as though a figurative weight is being lifted away from them. In turn, the increased blood circulation that results from cupping can unclog blockages in the body — improving mood levels significantly.

Once toxins are cleared from a person’s bloodstream, muscle tissue and lymph nodes, their hormonal and serotonin levels naturally become rebalanced. This balance results in lowered anxiety, depression and stress rates. There have been several cases reported of patients no longer needing antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications following regular cupping treatments. The procedure is especially effective at combatting stress and anxiety when combined with acupuncture.

6. Soothes Allergies

Nearly every positive health benefit of cupping contributes to lowering the symptoms associated with allergies. The main result of an allergic reaction is inflammation, which cupping targets by improving blood circulation, muscle stiffness, immune system function and lymphatic fluid flow.

The treatment also helps clean the blood and balance pH levels, which can become toxic after the body endures allergic reactions. While cupping helps reduce allergic reactions, it has also been known to prevent them entirely by clearing harmful blockages from the body. Ancient Chinese philosophy believed that allergies were caused by a lack of vital force, which cupping combats by stimulating each organ in the body.

Side Effects Associated With Cupping

With dry cupping, patients may experience minor pain when the suction is applied to their skin. This process is naturally followed by bruising or dark red marks on the treated area, which typically fade within a few days or weeks and do not cause any pain. Alternatively, wet cupping involves heightened pain as a side effect as the patient’s skin is punctured prior to the suction being applied. Other side effects include fatigue, soreness, dizzyness, feeling lightheaded and increased urination.

Patients Who Should Avoid Cupping

While cupping promotes several valuable health benefits, it could be dangerous to people with pre-existing health conditions. Those who bleed easily or cannot stop bleeding aren’t advised to opt for the treatment, given that it draws blood to the surface of the skin and causes bruising. Additionally, patients with skin ulcers or edema should avoid cupping as well. Pregnant women are advised to use cupping with extreme caution and to avoid doing so completely on their abdomen or lower back — for obvious reasons. As a general rule of thumb, it’s recommended to ease into cupping slowly to see how your body reacts to it initially, as well as how prominent your bruising will first be.

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