Cupping or cupping massage: what does it consist of?

He cupping (by cup, 'Cup' in English) or cupping massage is an ancient alternative therapy that is applied as part of a body treatment. It is quite old and originated in China, although the Egyptians also knew and used it.

His followers claim that cupping massage stimulates the body's energy (chi or qi). They also believe that cupping balances yin and yang, thereby helping the body to fight disease.

Nowadays, he cupping has become quite widespread in the Western Hemisphere. Thus, it is not strange to see athletes and many other people with the unmistakable marks left by the suction cups, denoting that they use it to complement approaches to various problems. In this article we will learn a little more about this practice.

Types of cupping massage

Cupping massages can be of various kinds, according to the techniques used and the purposes sought. Although heat is applied in all, the choice of one way or another depends on what the therapist recommends.

Fixed or dry suction cup

It is called that because the suction cup remains fixed at the point of application without using any additional substances. It is applied or adhered to the back or shoulders, for example, and left there for several minutes. This is done in order to treat reflex points. It is one of the most used and it is the one that produces those dark circles that we observe in those who use it.

Cupping massage

It is usually done on the back. In this case the suction cup is slid along the skin, producing a massage effect. For this, some oil or body lotion is placed.

The movement is to stimulate blood and lymph circulation. In this way, tension is reduced, as well as pain and muscle spasms, also favoring the elimination of toxins, according to their therapists.

Suction cup application and removal

In this mode the hot suction cup is applied to the skin and removed immediately or after a few seconds, making a suction effect. It is done only on the back and is said to help deal with excess mucus. Although it can also be indicated to treat mild muscle contractions.

Cervical contractures are one of the indications for cupping.

Suction cup bleeding

The suction cup it is applied to the skin for a few minutes and then removed, proceeding to make a cut or incision in the area, so that a small amount of blood comes out. This practice is considered to help decongest and reduce inflammation in the area, promoting circulation.

A variation of this technique is the scarified suction cup, in which incisions are made previously and then the suction cup is applied. This is supposed to allow the inflammatory focus to be drained directly and to remove compression and accumulated toxins.

Air suction cups

A more recent version of the ancient technique consists of the suction of air inside the suction cup, eliminating the use of heat. In this way, the patient is less affected in terms of side effects.

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What is cupping massage?

He cupping It is a process in which, as already noted, heat cups are applied to the skin using oils. However, must be done carefully, taking the appropriate measures.


Prior to the application of therapy, either with cupping or with any other complementary technique of natural or alternative medicine, first you should talk to your doctor. It is also important to know if the person applying the therapy is a professional in it.

On the day of therapy, the person should try to be relaxed, not have drunk or been under the influence of any substance or have eaten copiously. Of course, you must follow all the instructions of the therapist.


In the process, the therapist first heats the cup or cup on the fire using an alcohol lighter, lit paper, or some other technique. Then the mouth of the hot cup is applied directly to the person's skin.

When the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created that tightens the skin upward. There may be a slight sensation of pain and also redness in the area.

Depending on the type of technique, the cup stays in place for several minutes. And, if that is the case, a small incision or cut will be made that will also generate a sting.

After suction cup

After removing the cup or cup the therapist may apply an ointment or bandage to prevent infection in wounds. For a few days the person will have marks and will experience some discomfort. Although it is said that this disappears after one to two weeks.

To know more: What is the effect of alternative therapies?

What are the benefits of cupping?

Traditional medicine attributes to cupping highly effective in treating pain and inflammation, as well as in eliminating toxins. Thus, applied when there are muscle aches and contractions to relax and reduce tension.

As complementary therapy, cupping It is currently used for a wide variety of conditions, such as acne, eczema, arthritis, and migraines. Even for varicose veins. In terms of pain, it is proposed as an approach to facial paralysis and fibromyalgia.

Many athletes resort to cupping massage. It would help them to recover faster, mitigating pain and joint and muscle problems derived from intense physical activity.

On the other hand, he cupping It is also used as part of aesthetic treatments. It is claimed to help eliminate toxins, oxygenating tissues, fighting flaccidity, and activating elastin, as well as collagen.

Side effects of cupping massage

During or after cupping massage, various side effects may be experienced, including the following:

  • Redness and irritation of the skin with bruises.
  • Pain at the incision site.
  • Sweating, nausea, and dizziness
  • Skin burns.
  • Infection in wounds

For all these reasons and possible complications cupping should not be done in areas that have wounds, burns, skin ulcers or some injury or trauma. On the other hand, it is not recommended for certain groups, such as the following:

  • Children under 4 years old.
  • Older adults.
  • Pregnant women or those who are menstruating.
  • Patients with bleeding disorders and people who maintain anticoagulant treatments.

The classic back injuries in the form of round bruises are a consequence of the technique.

Is cupping a scientifically based technique?

In a sense, the cupping or cupping massage is based on some principles that are not unrelated to western medicine. Indeed, increasing blood flow in affected tissue stimulates natural responses for recovery.

Not all the virtues attributed to it have been scientifically certified. In that order of ideas, in a review of studies carried out in 2012 it was found that many of the investigations carried out in this regard had a high level of bias.

Another study reaches a similar conclusion: there is an underestimation or omission of the evidence in the research on acupuncture, cupping and other alternative therapies. Thus, cupping is not recommended in terms of first-line treatment.

However, some publications state that there is certainty that dry cupping can help reduce musculoskeletal pain, being also a non-invasive and low-risk therapeutic modality. Although studies on its effects should continue.

As with any other alternative therapy, if you choose to use cupping massage consider them as a complement and not as a substitute treatment. Also, consult a doctor and make sure that you are not in any of the risk groups.