Cupping therapy is an alternative therapeutic method that has been popular in China since around 1000 B.C.

Some records show that variations of cupping practices might actually be much older — possibly dating as far back as 3000 B.C. It is used along with massage therapy, essential oils, acupuncture or as an addition to “Western medicine” treatments.

A therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. The cups may be made of glass, bamboo, earthenware, or silicone.

While there are limited scientific studies about why cupping works, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that cupping can be effective. It is working for millions of people and has for many years. Here are five ways it can help you:

1. Cupping Therapy Reduces Pain

Cupping relaxes tense muscles and eases stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pains, migraines, rheumatism, and fatigue. Athletes use this therapy to improve performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pains and scar tissue caused by injuries.

This therapy also targets soft tissue by applying local pressure to pain points and areas of swelling. As blood flow increases within vessels and capillaries, tissues receive much-needed nutrients and oxygen.

For help lowering pain, cups are commonly placed over the following areas: over the fleshy part of the shoulder blades, over the groin/loins, by the neck (for soothing tension headaches, toothaches or migraines) or around the lower back.

What is Cupping and How Can It Help You

2. Helps in Relaxation

How can cupping be relaxing? Just the act of laying still and being “taken care of” during cupping therapy sessions has a positive effect on someone’s psychological well-being. It helps alleviate physical complaints and helps people to enter a more relaxed state because it naturally sedates the central nervous system. This is similar to acupuncture and acupressure that help lower stress responses and offers protection against anxiety and depression.

3. Boosts Skin Health

Because it improves blood flow, cupping is used to reduce herpes, cellulite, acne and skin inflammation. As part of a skin-clearing or cellulite treatment, oil is commonly first applied to the skin before the cups are suctioned and moved around, bringing heat to the area along with various skin-healing ingredients depending on the type of oil used.

4. Helps Respiratory Issues and Colds

Cupping therapy can be useful for speeding up healing time from respiratory illnesses like the flu or common colds because it helps clear way phlegm and congestion. It helps improve immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which is why it’s been associated with reductions in chronic coughs, allergies, infections, and asthma.

5. Improves Digestion

Throughout history, cupping therapy has been found to be beneficial for people with frequent stomach pains, diarrhea, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal diseases and water retention. For digestive issues, cupping is commonly performed in the following areas: around the navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys or over the stomach.

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