top of page

Cupping Therapy

History of Cupping Therapy

There is reason to believe the practice of cupping dates from as early as 3000 B.C. The earliest record of cupping is in the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes in 1550 B.C. Egyptians used cupping.


Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 B.C. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 B.C.) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. This method in multiple forms spread into medicine throughout Asian and European civilization.

In the Middle East Cupping therapy known as Hijama. In the book, “Healing with the Medicine of Prophet”, Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim(1292-1350) prescribed cupping therapy for many illnesses. The Chief Rabbi of Egypt, Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon(1135-1204) was referring to this therapy in his medical Books Mishna Thora – Hilchot Deot, Chapter 4.


Cupping also is thought to dispel cold by virtue of its ability to release external pathogenic factors, including invasion of wind, damp, and cold. In many cases, topical abstraction of blood alone is indicated, and this can only be effected by using leeches or cupping.

General effects of Cupping Therapy

Among the general effects, the most important is the effect upon circulatory system. Owing to the pull of low pressure, the flow of blood increases, although in case of the latter, localized spots of congested blood appear and then disappear. It is possible to ease the interruption of blood and congestion and to stop the inflammatory extravasation |( escaping of bodily fluid such as blood)from the tissues. Therefore, facilitation of the flow of blood is the most important characteristic of this therapy.


Dr.Katase from Osaka University suggest that this therapy may influence the composition of blood: it increases red and white blood cells and changes acid blood into alkaline or neutral. This leads to the purification of blood.


Cupping therapy stimulates the sensory nerves of the skin. The inhibitory effects on hypersensitive pain are not limited to the area of direct treatment, but include the areas called by the relevant nerves. Treatment on the back is mainly directed to the central line (spinal nerves and parasympathetic nerves) and the sympathetic nerves beside it. The stimulation if these has a good influence not only on the automatic nervous system itself but also on various organs under its control. Cupping is suitable for treating of pains, diseases of the digestive, circulatory and respiratory system, weakness of the muscle and common cold.

This treatment has some relation to certain massage techniques, such as the rapid skin pinching along the back that is an important aspect of tuina .  In that practice, the skin is pinched, sometimes at specific points (e.g., bladder meridian points), until a redness is generated.  Cupping is applied by acupuncturists to certain acupuncture points, as well as to regions of the body that are affected by pain (where the pain is deeper than the tissues to be pulled).  When the cups are moved along the surface of the skin, the treatment is somewhat like Gua Sha . Movement of the cups is a gentler technique than Gua Sha, as a lubricant allows the cup to slide without causing as much of the subcutaneous bruising that is an objective of guasha.  Still, a certain amount of bruising is expected both from fixed position cupping (especially at the site of the cup rim) and with movement of the cups.

Is cupping safe? Does it hurt?

While cupping is considered relatively safe (especially air cupping, which does not include the risk of fire and heat), it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. All skin marks that are the result of cupping therapy, however dark they can appear, are not painful.

There is not external or internal damage inflicted to the skin. Slight local sensitivity is expected reaction immediately after the cupping application.


There are several instances where cupping should not be performed. Patients with inflamed skin; cases of high fever or convulsions; and patients who bleed easily, are not suitable candidates for cupping. Pregnant women should not have cupping on their stomach or lower back.

Personal Experience

The first time I experienced cupping was as a 5 years old child when I had a bad cold. First, my mother rubbed my back with Vaseline and warmed the glass cups with flaming cotton ball soaked in alcohol. Then she applied cups to my back. It was strange feeling of my skin being pulled away from me. After 15 minutes she took the cups of and covered me with blankets. After half an hour I was drenched with sweat. The next day I was able to go out and play with my friends, because my cold was gone.  :)


bottom of page