Everything You Need to Know About Cupping

Women's Health—June 7, 2013

First, Jennifer Anniston sported weird marks that news reports said looked like they came from a massage therapy technique called cupping. Then, stars like Natalie Coughlin, Kelly Osborne, and David Arquette Tweeted about doing it. Cupping advocates say it can cure anything from back pain to acne. Never heard of it? Here’s your crash course on practice:

What it is
Cupping, an ancient Chinese remedy, is rooted in the belief that health problems stem from stagnant blood and a low energy flow. So to increase blood circulation, a practitioner applies glass, rubber, or bamboo cups to the affected area and creates suction, either with a flame that creates a vacuum in the cup (the more traditional method) or with a hand-held gun-like device that sucks the air out through a hole at the top of the cup.

Because the suction draws blood to the affected area, the oxygen supply is increased and tension and inflammation are reduced, says Jennifer Solomon, MD, a physiatrist in physical medicine at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. The practice is common in China’s hospital system and is also used as a form of alternative medicine all over the world.

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Does it work?
Although limited research exists on the effectiveness of cupping therapy, the studies available suggest that cupping can in fact be an effective treatment for lower back pain, neck pain, and knee osteoarthritis. While cupping is a safe alternative therapy, it works best when combined with more conventional approaches, says Solomon. As a precautionary measure, cupping around the adnominal or lower back area is not recommended if you are pregnant, and Solomon urges her patients to advise practitioners about any allergies they have (to avoid potential reactions to oil used or to the glass, plastic, or bamboo cups). She also recommends that you communicate with your therapist during the treatment to assure that the cupping is not too aggressive so you can avoid skin trauma.

Read the full story at blog.womanshealthmag.com.

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