What Is Cupping and How It Improves Overall Health & Wellbeing


Everything You Need to Know About This Traditional Chinese Therapy

Cupping is known as “pulling-up jars” in Chinese. Traditional Chinese medicine explains cupping as a therapy that eliminates blood stasis and improves wellbeing by promoting cell repair. By propelling blood and lymph circulation in target areas, it improves the flow of Qi (or ‘chi’), which is our ‘life force’ and ‘vital energy.’ This therapy, administered by placing cups directly on a patient’s skin, is used to treat various health issues, such as pain, inflammation, musculoskeletal conditions, or headaches. It can also be combined with other Eastern medicine approaches, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, or herbal therapy.

Today, cupping is starting to gain more and more attention in all parts of the world, due to its numerous benefits, extremely low risks, and mild side effects. Almost everybody can adopt this therapy to handle different kinds of issues and boost their immunity in a safe and relaxing way. In this article, we will talk about different methods of cupping, how it works, what the typical session looks like, the benefits, and side effects, among other things. If you are considering trying cupping, continue reading this article. It may help you make an important, educated decision regarding your health.

Makari Wellness: The Most Reliable Cupping Therapist In San Diego And Oceanside

If you have inquiries about cupping technique, turn to Makari Wellness. Our clinic was founded in 2005 by Michael Woodsworth, a licensed and certified Acupuncturist and Herbalist who has been practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 15 years. Makari Wellness provides reliable and effective cupping therapy, along with acupuncture, active release techniques, sports medicine, herbal therapy, moxibustion, and physical therapy. We create personalized and all-natural treatment plans involving cupping therapy to treat muscle tension, high blood pressure, pain, arthritis, and much more. Contact us for more information on drug-free, cellular-level healing. You can get in touch with us at (888) 871-8889 to book your appointment. With us, you will enjoy the benefits of functional medicine which treats the root causes of diseases while improving the state of your mind, body, and spirit.

What Is Cupping Therapy

Cupping, also known as ‘cup therapy’ or ‘suction cup therapy’, is an ancient healing therapy which is used to ease different types of pain. It is part of a Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) originating from China and West Asia and has been practiced for thousands of years. In the beginning, it was popular mostly in China, the Middle East, and Egypt. However, today, it is gaining more and more popularity across the world.

This type of healing therapy is administered by placing cups on your back, chest, abdomen or other body parts (arms, legs) in order to encourage better blood circulation and reduce pain.

How Does It Work

Cupping is conducted by placing special cups on your skin (arms, legs, abdomen, chest, back, buttocks, etc.). It works by vacuum or suction force pulling your skin upwards and drawing fluids by expanding and breaking capillaries (the smallest blood vessels) just beneath the skin. Your body then responds as if there is an injury, and blood flow is increased in this spot. This way, cells are regenerating, and the pain is reduced. It is also believed that this technique helps release accumulated toxins from the body. Most of the time, the cups are left in place for several minutes, although certain sessions might take longer, depending on your specific health issue. During certain types of treatments, the technician may move the cups in order to create a massage-like effect for the affected area.

Different Types Of Cupping

Cupping can be administered in several different ways, with slight variations among the methods. Your health provider will determine which type should be included in your treatment plan.


Dry cupping, also known as ‘suction-only’ method, can be conducted in two ways. They are distinguished by how the suction is created.

  • In a traditional method, which is the primary method used in China, fire is used to create suction. To be heated, the cups are first rinsed with alcohol and then lit. Or alcohol-soaked cotton balls are set on fire. After cooling, the air inside the cup causes negative pressure and ultimately it creates suction of the skin.
  • Modern method uses a suction device (air pump) instead of fire to remove air and create vacuum which pulls the skin upwards by pumping method.


Also known as ‘massage’ or ‘oil/sliding cupping’, this technique is similar to dry method. The only difference is that the cups are being repositioned and moved during the session as a form of massage. The first step is applying massage oils or lotion to your skin. Once the practitioner places the cups in their positions, they will lightly slide them in the desired directions to gently massage the affected area of your body.


Flash, or ‘empty’ cupping is a technique that involves quick and repeated cups application and release. The purpose is to stimulate better blood flow and to reduce local blockages and congestions.

Cupping may be also combined with:

  • acupuncture
  • moxibustion
  • electrical stimulation
  • herbal therapy
  • water
  • magnets

Furthermore, there are special subcategories including:

  • orthopedic,
  • facial,
  • sports,
  • aquatic,
  • deep tissue,
  • solar plexus


This technique is also called ‘medicinal bleeding’ or ‘Hijama” (Arabic for ‘sucking’). After several minutes of suction, the therapist removes the cups and performs a controlled medicinal bleeding. The bleeding of the raised skin can be induced by lightly puncturing the skin with a needle, or by making a tiny cut with a scalpel. This way, toxins are released with blood. Before placing another cup back on the affected area, a technician may use pressure to speed up circulation.

What Can I Expect During The Session?

Your session will vary based on the type of treatment chosen. You will be asked to lie down comfortably, either face down or up, depending on which area of your body needs to be treated.

A therapist will then place multiple round cups directly on your skin. In general, three to five cups are used for your first session, although this number may go up to seven in subsequent sessions. Usually, the maximum number of cups in a single treatment is seven.

The exact places for the cups will be determined based on the condition being treated, although muscle tissue areas are most effective, such as chest, abdomen, back, and buttocks. Body areas that will be avoided include those with excess hair, little muscle tissue, or those tiny points that do not have enough surface area to hold the cup appropriately.

During the treatment, you will feel the vacuuming (sucking) sensation.

What type of cups are used?

The majority of therapists use cups made of glass or plastic, although they may also be made of:

  • Bamboo
  • Ceramic
  • Metal
  • Silicone

Currently, there is a growing preference for disposable cups, as reusable cups require meticulous disinfection and sterilization procedures before every usage. The size of the cup varies based on where it will be administered.

How long does the treatment take?

The cups will be left on you for approximately several minutes to an hour or more, depending on which method is used. Dry and flash cupping typically take about 5 and 10 minutes to complete. Wet cupping takes more time as it involves oil application and moving the cups, and can take anywhere from several minutes to more than an hour.

What Happens After The Treatment?

Cupping is known to create notorious skin discolorations of circular shapes, which is very similar to bruising. They were caused by bursting of blood vessels under the skin. They do not hurt and typically disappear within 1 to 10 days of the session.

Some people experience light soreness caused by the accumulated lactic acid in the muscle tissue. After the session, it is always a good idea to keep hydrating to flush all the toxins fully from your body. Try to rest, keep warm, and make sure you get enough sleep. To prevent infection, your therapist may give you an ointment and a bandage.

Things to avoid after the session

Post treatment, it is not recommended to do intense physical exercise or expose yourself to extreme heat and cold. For several hours, try to avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, meat, and dairy.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Cupping?

If you are asking yourself “What is cupping used for?” over the centuries, it has been used to treat all kinds of health issues, with proven effectiveness in healing muscle aches and pain. Some people believe it also helps with chronic conditions.

Cupping may ease the symptoms of the following:

  • Sore muscles
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Stress
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Neck pain, shoulder, and back pain
  • Brachialgia, facial paralysis
  • Knee and hip pain
  • Cough, asthma, and dyspnea
  • Acne, hives, and shingles
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Gynecological and fertility problems
  • Herpes zoster

Does It Hurt?

Cupping therapy is not painful in general. It is a very calming TCM method that can help relieve stress and increase relaxation. You will feel suction sensation as the skin is being vacuumed. After the cup is removed and the blood flows to the area, you can experience warmth and redness.

Are There Any Side Effects?

Cupping is a pretty safe therapy with mild side effects that appear during or right after the session. The side effects may include:

  • skin discoloration
  • circular marks
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • bruising and scarring
  • In rare cases, nausea or sweating

Is Cupping Safe For Everyone?

Although it is considered safe, people with certain conditions should avoid this treatment. These conditions include:

  • Hemophilia, anemia, blood clotting issues
  • Cardiovascular diseases and deep vein thrombosis
  • Internal organ disorder or epilepsy
  • Sunburns, wounds, or thinning skin
  • Stroke (or have a pacemaker)
  • Skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, or skin ulcer

Additional things for consideration are:

  • Age – Due to sensitivity and fragility of the skin, seniors and children should be closely monitored during the sessions.
  • Pregnancy – If you are pregnant, stay clear of abdomen and lower back areas.
  • Medications – If you take blood thinning medication, do not undergo this therapy.
  • Contamination – Make sure your practitioner is licensed to avoid getting in contact with equipment which is not properly sterilized and contaminated with bloodborne diseases like hepatitis B and C.

Remarkable Benefits Of Cupping Therapy

Although there is a lot of mixed evidence about how beneficial cupping really is, scientists mention a lot of reasons why this therapy can be very effective. Namely, how successful cupping will be depends on several factors. It is highly recommended, by the majority of healthcare providers of traditional medicine, to use cupping as a complementary treatment only. Use it with traditional Western medicine instead of a stand-alone option.

A great deal of patients have stated the following benefits of cupping:

  • Minimizes inflammation and pain
  • Reduces muscle tension and tightness
  • Increases blood circulation and red blood cells
  • Improves motion range
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Encourages comfort and tranquility
  • Increases levels of pain threshold
  • Releases toxins from your body
  • Effectively reduces levels of cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)
  • Helps in prevention of cardiovascular conditions (such as atherosclerosis)
  • Successfully stimulates peripheral nervous system

Is Cupping Effective?

Since there aren’t a lot of studies on cupping in Western medicine, scientists are still researching how it works and how effective it really is. But one thing is for sure – it does not have many side effects, so it is pretty safe to practice if administered by licensed TCM providers. It is important to remember that it is usually most effective when used along conventional medicine.

Patients suffering from musculoskeletal or muscular tension (such as chronic back pain) have confirmed that dry cupping was a very successful method. They reported substantial improvement after five sessions and several rest days in between the treatments. Overall pain was reduced by administering cups for approximately 8 minutes.

For general pain issues, dry cupping is the preferred method, while wet cupping is very beneficial for inflammation issues (like herpes zoster infection – shingles).

Although research results have often been inconclusive, lots of studies have proved that cupping has  positive effects on flexibility, pain threshold, and extent of movement.

How Much Does It Cost?

The exact cost of therapy will mostly be influenced by your location. However, throughout the world, the price of cupping is regarded as budget-friendly. Typically, it is more affordable than acupuncture.

The price of therapy is based on various other factors, such as frequency, or the type of treatment plan you are undergoing. For more information about the prices in Makari Wellness clinics in California, please check pricing information.

Where Can I Find A Cupping Therapist?

Cupping therapy is conducted by a variety of trained health providers and practitioners like acupuncturists, physical therapists, massage therapists, or chiropractors. It is best to consult with your family doctor about recommendations for licensed and certified technicians in your area.  If you are in San Diego or Oceanside, contact Makari Wellness.

Takeaway: Cupping As A Unique Approach To Improved Health

If you are thinking of trying a safe and low-risk treatment that might ease aches and pains, cupping is the way to go. Although it has been present for thousands of years, its applications have significantly expanded over the years, and today, it is used to relieve a myriad of health conditions, specifically pain and musculoskeletal issues like sprains, back injuries, neck pain, fibromyalgia, inflammation, strains, and sports rehabilitation. With so many advantages and very little contraindications it is worth trying it as a means to boost your immune system and improve your well-being. In Western medicine, cupping is still considered a complementary therapy, so before undergoing this treatment, consult with your doctor. As with all other treatment plans, it is essential to see a trained and certified professional, like Michael Woodsworth from Makari Wellness, who is certified and knowledgeable about a variety of Eastern medicine treatments, including cupping.

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