The incredibly effective Chinese medicine therapy known as fire cupping has been practiced for more than 3,000 years, and today it’s becoming more familiar and common to Americans. This procedure may seem a bit daunting at first, but most people who tried fire cupping say that it feels great and helps move their energy splendidly. However, it is not for everyone, and with each patient certain considerations must be taken into account.
A Short History of Cupping Therapy
Before glass was invented, cupping was performed with hollowed out bamboo, animal horns, and then ceramic cups. The use of these things, however, came with a few problems: the ability to observe how the therapy was going along, the scarcity of horns, and sterilization. The use of glass cups allows practitioners to better monitor the progress of the therapy. Furthermore, those glass cups are easy to clean and stick better to the flesh. These days, there are practitioners who use plastic cups designed with a suctioning attachment.
What is Fire Cupping Therapy?
In fire cupping, glass jars that contain an alcohol-soaked cotton ball are used. The cotton ball is lit up and briefly placed inside the cup to generate negative pressure. The flaming cotton ball is then quickly taken out and the glass jar is applied over body areas targeted for treatment, generating suction. The force of the suction causes fluids, energy (Qi), and Blood to move producing a petechiae rash, which in this case, is good.
Fire Cupping for Congestion and Stagnation
For the practitioner, the rash produced in a cupping procedure is a means to diagnose an underlying condition. It can tell the practitioner what pattern of disharmony the patient has by how long the rash remains or by how slowly or quickly it rises. A bright red rash, for example, means excess of heat, while a purplish and deep rash suggests stagnation. In a cupping therapy to help calm the patient, the procedure may be done in a light manner that it does not create a rash. Cupping therapy for children needs to first have the consent of their parents and involves a gentle technique so as not to lift up the rash. For children with asthma, gentle regular treatment sessions that do not bruise the child are administered. In a cupping procedure known as sliding technique, oil is applied on the patient’s skin while the practitioner glides or slides the cups over specific areas of the body. Depending on the needs of the patient, sliding can be done in a very deep or very light manner.
The procedure should be clearly explained to the patient by the practitioner before it is performed.
The Uses/ Benefits of Fire Cupping
1. For splinters, snake bite, and bee stings – Fire cupping can be very useful for extracting stubborn splinters that are difficult to remove using tweezers.
2. Opens the Lungs – This therapy can help resolve illnesses and respiratory conditions such as the flu, colds, cough with phlegm, COPD, pneumonia, allergies, asthma, and bronchitis.
3. Calms the Shen – Can help a person get some sleep. Fire cupping involving the use of a light gliding set relieves emotional and mental disorders, tension, anxiety, and stress.
4. Harmonizes the Spleen and Abdomen – Enhances digestion and regulates the core.
5. Releases stagnated Qi
6. Alleviates pain – Fire cupping is incredibly effective against general pain and aches, arthritis, and overworked and strained muscles.
7. Eliminates damp – Fire cupping can treat liver and gallbladder disorders, autoimmune disorders, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, body aches, asthma, and arthritis.
8. Expels cold – Increases movement of Qi and blood and fluid circulation.
9. Warms the body – Treats cold extremities and weak circulation.
Different Types of Cupping Procedures
The practitioner will select the length of set and the style of cupping based on the needs of the patient.
1. Wet cupping – This technique is rarely used in the States. Acupuncturists are the only ones allowed to practice this method. Wet cupping involves the breaking of the patient’s skin before the cups are applied to allow some drops of blood to be released.
2. Sliding–The area to be treated is first rubbed with oil. Then the cups are then placed on the areas and then moved slid across the skin to create the petechiae.
3. Dry cupping – Cups are applied on targeted body points or areas about five to thirty minutes based on the color rising.
Fire Cupping Contraindications
As with any form of treatment, there are certain occasions when fire cupping should not be administered.
Over extremely large vessels
Over bony parts of the body – The cups are difficult to set in bony joints. A more appropriate treatment would be Gua Sha.
Over hairy parts of the body
Over bruises – Only until the bruises have healed should fire cupping be administered
Parts of the body where edema has formed
Over lumps, warts, or moles
Swollen lymph nodes
Over a pregnant woman’s lower back or stomach
Over the heart
Broken vessels or varicose veins
On delicate, fragile, or broken skin
A person with bleeding disorders, hemophiliacs
A person with high fever
A person in coma
A person with convulsions
A person who has fainted
For legal reasons, US practitioners prefer not to perform cupping therapy on children although in East Asia, it is regularly performed in children.
The Consent of the Patient
Due to its tendency to leave a rash, fire cupping therapy should not be done without the full understanding and clear consent of the patient.
Jacksonville Acupuncture Clinic
8855 San Jose Blvd
Jacksonville, FL 32217-4244