Cupping is used to treat pain, ease scar tissue deep within muscles and connective tissues, and reduce swelling and muscle knots. It is also used to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion; arthritis; and gastrointestinal disorders.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, cupping improves the flow of Qi (your vital life force) and blood circulation. It eliminates toxins by drawing them into the skin where they are more easily removed.
Cupping is much like the inverse of massage - rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses suction to pull them upward. Typically, a practitioner will light a alcohol soaked cotton ball, then place it over the cup, which thins the air inside of the cup and creates a vacuum. The vacuumed cup is then immediately put on the skin and suction occurs. Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as "gliding cupping"). Medical massage oils are sometimes applied to improve the movement of the glass cups along the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.