One of the most interesting modalities of Chinese medicine involves the practice of cupping. The purpose of cupping is to move energy, facilitate healing, and relieve pain. It involves placing glass or plastic cups on the body in which a of vacuum has been created. The vacuum acts to pull the skin, increasing the flow of blood and energy. For practical reasons, cupping is usually done on the larger areas of the body such as your back or legs; but it can be done almost anywhere on the body if necessary.
There are a couple of ways to create a vacuum in the cups. One is by using cups with small gaskets through which air can be pulled out with a pump. The other method is called fire cupping. A cotton ball is soaked in alcohol and lit, then held in the cup for a few seconds until the flame has used up all the air. The cup is then quickly placed on the skin. It sounds very dramatic and dangerous, but it is actually quite safe and works very well. The cups may then be left on the skin for five to ten minutes or they can be moved across the skin (retaining the vacuum) to treat a larger area.
The downside of cupping is that while it is painless, it leaves a mark on your skin that looks like a perfectly round bruise (Think very large hickey). If you’re planning to go to the beach or wear strapless evening wear, you may want to postpone being cupped until your next visit.
Excerpted from Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.