What You Need To Know About Cupping Therapy

What do Gwyneth Paltrow and Olympic athletes have in common? They both turn to cupping therapy to relieve pain and remove toxins from the body – a practice which can be traced back to ancient Chinese, Middle Eastern and Egyptian cultures. We went to Ada Ooi – beauty and wellness guru to Rooney Mara and Ellie Goulding, and founder of award-winning skincare brand 001 Skincare – to find out what it could do for you.
VERTIKALA/STOCKSY UNITED

First, what is cupping therapy?

“Cupping uses similar principles to popular skin therapy gua sha – where a tool is used to bring inflammation or illness to the skin’s surface so pain can be relieved. It involves placing cups on the skin on certain parts of the body to create a suction, creating broken blood vessels just beneath the skin, which break up adhesions which might be creating tension or blockages.” 

Tell us more…

“Cupping also stimulates the lymphatic network to get rid of excess fluids and promote waste management. One unique property of cupping is that it uses negative pressure. This means that without heavy-handed massage, cupping is able to release tension by separating the fascia from the muscle and lengthening the muscle fibre and connective tissue. This then creates space for essential elements necessary for healing while removing the build-up of toxins. Combined, this can effectively relieve muscle pain.”

So, who’s it for?
“Cupping works well for anyone with water retention, muscle tension or someone who needs a 'kick' to move circulation along. It's a treatment that is able to get under your skin to unknot, unblock and reboot. Cupping is especially good for people who suffer from chronic tension, to a point that their 'knots' are too hard or too sore to touch. It works by increasing blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed, which can in turn relieve muscle tension, which then improves overall blood flow and promotes cell repair.”

What are some of the main benefits?

“From a Western medicine point of view, cupping is able to draw fresh blood to a painful area and heighten its healing response. The simulated blood flow arouses cell metabolism and repair, resulting in the formation of new connective tissue. The suction softens tensed soft tissue by dissolving adhesions and helps release unhealthy torsion, normalising muscle position. It also drains excessive fluids and toxins while new blood stimulates the joints, lifts and lengthens fascia and reactivates entrapped nerves within our body. 

“In Chinese medicine, heightened blood circulation means ‘qi’ (the vital life force said to flow through the body) is able to move through the body more effectively, and during the process imbalances are pacified and reset, allowing for effective transport and transformations of nutrients and essences. As the cups move around the meridian network across the body, they are also able to stimulate and nourish the reflexive organ systems.”

Cupping works well for anyone with water retention, muscle tension or someone who needs a 'kick' to move circulation along.
Ada Ooi

How does it work?
“The practitioner will place the cups on your skin. Then – depending on the area that’s being treated – they will create a suction either from a special pump to vacuum out the air or heat the cup before placing it on your body. How long the cups stay on your skin depends on what is being treated, so this could be a few minutes or up to half an hour.

“The negative pressure from the cup forces capillaries in injured or tense areas to hold stale blood and cellular debris and attract them to the surface. The circulatory and lymphatic drainage system will then process them to give space for oxygen, nutrients and new cells. 

“One way of cupping is to cup along your meridian network to stimulate internal organ systems, such as the liver and spleen meridian for both physical and mental waste management. In this case, instead of leaving the cup static, the 'moving cup' technique will be used, which involves gliding across the meridian network to invigorate and produce internal reflexive response, stimulating internal movements for moving qi or getting rid of toxins.

“The cupping marks on your body indicate the level of blood, toxin accumulation or dampness accumulation in your body. The colour and pattern of the marks reflect the level of stagnation in that area. Everybody is different by nature, and will react differently to cupping, but as a general rule, the darker the colour, the more stagnation could be present.”

Is the process the same for facial cupping?
“Almost. Although they follow the same principle, the type of cup used is different for your face. They are usually a lot smaller and softer too. Facial cupping also doesn’t leave bruises, because the suction isn’t as strong, and the cups are constantly moving.” 

What’s the difference between dry and wet cupping?
“The cups used can come in different materials and shapes and sizes. With wet cupping, your practitioner will gently prick your skin with a needle before or after applying the suction cups to draw out a small, controlled amount of blood to loosen any stagnation you have. Please ensure you approach a certified Chinese medicine practitioner for this, as wet cupping can easily become infected if not done in a hygienic environment and controlled manner. Dry cupping doesn't require any pin pricks.” 

We’ve got to admit, it looks painful…
“Cupping really shouldn’t hurt, despite what the bruises might suggest. Sometimes you can feel tired and have flu-like symptoms after cupping, as the body can be overwhelmed by all the actions coming together. If this happens, listen to your body, as it is telling you to rest, keep warm and take a nap. You’re sure to wake up feeling light and relaxed. It's important to remember these flu-like symptoms are only a temporary reaction by your immune system to the cellular waste that cupping helps to release.”

Cupping really shouldn’t hurt, despite what the bruises might suggest.
Ada Ooi

How quickly can you see results?

“You’ll feel a warming sensation and relaxing benefits almost instantly, and this will last from days to weeks depending on your treatment. But like any other therapy methods, I encourage regular and consistent treatments for the body to learn its way to recovery and balance.” 

Are there any risks associated with it?
“Risks mainly surround who the practitioner you choose to perform cupping is. It’s hugely important you visit a qualified professional, otherwise you can suffer from pain or infection, and over-cupping can lead to blisters.”

And what’s the aftercare process?

“Like with gua sha, it’s best to avoid showering at least two hours after body cupping, and keep yourself very warm to avoid any dampness, as this can turn into cold when entering the body when your blood vessels are wide open and active. If possible, take a shower before your cupping sessions. For facial cupping, since there is very limited ‘trauma’, contact with water is fine.”

How can you get started?
“Always do your research and find a qualified practitioner who will be able to properly assess what you and your body needs.” 

 
Ada offers both cupping therapy and gua sha tension release services in her London clinic. To find out more about her or to book an appointment, visit 001Skincare.com.

 

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