Cupping is a form of alternative medicine, used traditionally in Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures and dating as far back as Ancient Egypt. In this form of therapy, specialized cups (either silicone, glass, or bamboo) are heated using fire, and then placed upside down on the body (usually the back) once they are finished heating, creating a seal. As the cups cool, so does the air inside of it, creating a vacuum. The vacuum created by the cups causes the skin to rise and the blood vessels under the skin to expand.
Cups are typically kept in place for about three to ten minutes, but can also be moved from place to place during a therapy session as a form of massage. Cupping can also focus on the same pressure points that are targeted in acupuncture, and the two services are traditionally done in tandem in Chinese medicine. Cupping therapy can also be done in conjunction with Gua Sha, another ancient form of Eastern medicine that involves scraping the skin with a special tool for medicinal purposes.
Cupping has long been used to help treat a variety of health issues. The suction generated by the heated cups pulls the muscles underneath the skin upwards, which loosens the muscles and reduces tightness and tension. The suction created by the cups also causes the local blood vessels to expand, encouraging blood flow throughout the body.
Cupping is known for its pain relief properties, specifically back and neck pains, and is used by athletes after strenuous exercise as a way to speed up the recovery process. It can also be used to treat chronic pain problems, like rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, providing an alternative form of pain relief that does not require narcotics. The increased blood flow encouraged by this treatment can also help with chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, migraines, and high blood pressure.
The Delray Center for Integrative Medicine offer cupping therapy as part of our holistic suite of services, and as a complement to our psychiatry and depression treatments. For patients seeing one of our doctors for complex pain issues, cupping is a great way of addressing that pain without the use of painkillers. For patients receiving help for anxiety or depression, cupping can be another way to relieve stress and improve mood while also receiving psychiatric care.
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