Cupping is really a bunch of different techniques with three basic types of equipment:
- Traditional glass cups
- Silicone cups
- Trigger evacuated plastic cups
With these types of cups you can perform:
- Static cupping
- Slide cupping
- Flash cupping
Most non-eastern people became aware of cupping while seeing athletes with cup marks on their bodies from their physio or trainer. That is static cupping and I believe is used in some cases to move blood and endogenous waste products from the vessels to the interstitium, making healthy blood flow unobstructed.
If you picture that a massage is pressure on some of these same structures inward toward other structures, cupping is similar but the pressure is being pulled outward and energetically creating more space. It can be focused on a single point, or along a channel, muscle.
How are fire cupping, flash cupping, and silicone cupping different?
Fire cupping refers to the method we use to evacuate the cup so that it can provide suction. We only use fire cupping with our glass cups. After it’s suction-ed on the body, the cup can then be moved around or left in place, and the skin beneath it examined for changes. We heat the air inside the cups with a flaming wand. It’s the cooling air inside the cup that creates the suction. The cup does not get hot because this all happens very quickly.
Flash cupping is a technique which uses the glass cups to move qi and blood, and often used in the early stages of a pathogenic attack.. We use fire to evacuate the air inside and the glass cups. The technique gets its name from the action of placing the cup on and quickly removing it, rapidly, in quick succession, often on a single point.
Silicone cupping is a technique performed with silicone cups. They can either be left in one place or moved across an stagnant area or channel. The effect is gentler, and we will often use these when cupping a client for the first time.
What conditions are treated with cups?
Since we have a great variety of options within equipment and techniques, there are a wide variety of patterns (as we say in Chinese medicine) that can be improved. There are many pain related conditions for which cupping can be helpful. And blood or circulatory stagnation is usually helped by cupping. We also use it in a diagnostic way because we can see the body’s response to the cups and understand more about the underlying condition.
Do cups always leave a mark?
Cupping does not leave any permanent marks when performed properly. It’s important to know that there can be temporary marks, which manifest like a bruise would in a healthy person, but the body will break the cells drawn out down and resolve it over time. If you have a reason that you can’t look slightly bruised after your treatment, like an important date or photoshoot, it’s important to speak up. Like all other treatments, the body will resolve any post-treatment marks over time.