A Complete Guide to Cupping Therapy by Dr Prem – Definition, History, Principle, Procedure, Its Importance, Benefits and Other Tips

A Complete Guide to Cupping Therapy by Dr Prem

Cupping therapy that comes from 1500 BC is one of the most preferred alternative treatments today. It is an effective way to reduce pain, improve blood flow, treat chronic diseases, etc. Cupping is also a well-known therapy to reduce stress and depression by providing relaxation. This is one of the reasons you will find cupping therapy in many wellness resorts and spas all over the world.

The therapy is generally used in the treatment of rheumatic disorders like muscle and joint pains, anemia, gynecological disorders, skin diseases, and general health. There are different methods of cupping such as Light/ Medium/ Strong Cupping, Needle Cupping, Dry Cupping, Moving Cupping, and many others that can be done as per the benefit required.

This therapy is also well-known for flushing out the toxins in your body. It dilates your blood vessels with the release of vasodilators such as noradrenaline, adenosine, and histamine.

Cupping can be performed on various body parts such as the back, stomach, leg, chest, buttocks, scalp, etc. If you want to learn or perform cupping independently, get a consultation with a professional to understand it thoroughly.

In this wellness guide, you will read about the following:

A Complete Guide to Cupping Therapy by Dr Prem – Definition, History, Principle, Procedure, Its Importance, Benefits and Other Tips

Principle Of Cupping

people enjoying sharbat before the wet therapy

Cupping is believed to help balance ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’, which means the negatives and positives present within your body. The restoration of these two extreme points significantly improves the body’s resistance to pathogens (an organism that causes the diseases) and reduces pain by promoting the circulation of blood.

The Cupping or Hijama therapy is supposed to be done on an empty stomach or at least after an hour post-meal. The person undergoing cupping should be given water or sharbat before the wet therapy. These two principles are believed to keep the person hydrated and make the cupping therapy effects deep and efficient.

Cupping therapy is done with the use of specially designed cups for applying the suction to treat specific ailments. This technique has gone viral worldwide but very few users are acquainted with its rich heritage and the intriguing dynamics that work behind the procedure.

Origin Of Cupping Therapy

cupping therapy

The history of cupping therapy goes back to ancient times. Even though cupping got its hype in the modern erabut it has always been an essential part of medicines for years. Some evidence suggests that cupping was invented by the ancient Egyptians and some suggest it was invented by the Chinese.

One of the oldest medical books ‘The Ebers Papyrus’ mentioned the use of cupping therapy by the Egyptians for ailments treatment such as fever, pain, vertigo, menstrual imbalance, etc. Cupping drawings were also discovered on the Temple walls of Kom Ombo, which is one of the ancient Egyptian Cities.

Session in the physical therapy with cupping on a woman patient

Cupping can also be traced back to the early Han Dynasty in the Chinese tradition. ‘Ge Hong – a renowned alchemist and herbalist’ is considered to be the first to use and perform this technique in China. He believed that the natural therapy of cupping and acupuncture combined can cure more than half of ills.

There are enough evidence that this healing technique was in vogue throughout the Middle East ages before it began to fascinate the western world. Over time, the popularity of cupping therapy was on the rise and currently, it has received a huge unanimous acceptance.

Evolution Of Cupping Therapy

A young woman patient is being treated with cupping, an alternative medicine procedure

Cupping therapy is known by various other names such as Chinese Cupping, Hijama Cupping, Vacuum Cupping, and Horn Treatment. Yes, the Horn Treatment refers to the most ancient and initial way of performing the cupping treatment with hallowed animal horns.

Furthermore, throughout history, the style and techniques of cupping evolved and resembled the geographic locations this therapy was performed in. The cups made with the help of the available local materials such as horns, ceramic, metal, glass, and plastic were found in Chinese, Ancient Egyptian, Korean, Unani, Tibetan, and Latin American Cultures.

However, as time passed, this method was considered among ‘Alternative Medicine due to the dominant medical system of Western Allopathic Medicine. Western-based cupping in the modern era uses cups that are now commonly made with silicon, rubber, and glass with vacuum seals.

Types Of Cupping Therapy

Wet/ Hijama/ Bleeding Cupping

Healing bloodletting, hijama or phlebotomy. Hajam master conducts cupping therapy on a young woman. Islamic medicine

The main objective of wet cupping is removing blood stasis and waste through skin incisions. Both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding techniques can be involved in the wet cupping session for higher impact. You should go for this method to get a deep tissue massage and promote your well-being.

Fire Cupping


Fire cupping significantly enhances blood circulation, relieves pain, and also extracts toxins out of the skin pores. Your therapist uses a cotton ball soaked in alcohol and lit it under a cup to create suction while placing it on your skin. This technique can be done with the use of bamboo, glass, and a plastic cup.

Dry Cupping

Dry Cupping therapy

It is one of the most common cupping therapy techniques. Plastic or rubber cups are used to perform dry cupping sessions. This method provides benefits such as reduction of inflammation, softening of stiff connective tissues, drainage of toxins from lymphatic systems, and many others.

Oil/ Moving Cupping

oil cupping

The use of massage oils is involved in this cupping technique. The cups are then attached to the body and glided on the targeted area. This technique is beneficial in treating congestion, digestion, and inflammations.

Empty Cupping/ Flash Cupping

Flash Cupping therapy

Empty or Flash Cupping is performed by applying cups repeatedly and quickly with minimum retention. It works deeply and effectively by reducing local congestion and stimulating circulation in a broader area of the body.

Facial Cupping

Young Woman receives facial cupping massage facial rejuvenation treatment at acupuncture wellness spa

This technique is based on the similar principle of body cupping. However, it is done with the use of smaller and softer cups. Facial cupping is beneficial for reducing wrinkles and fine lines and promoting skin tightening by helping fresh blood to reach the surface of the skin.

NOTE – The applied pressure, devices, and needles used can vary from person to person. The therapy will be carried out focusing on the safety of a person’s health.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Woman with symptoms of bronchitis

  • Treats chronic pain and cramps around the abdomen triggered by menstrual disorders.
  • It helps treat arthritis and brings in mobility in the areas that have gone stiff.
  • Mitigates swelling.
  • It also treats respiratory disorders like asthma, cold, bronchitis, and other types of chest infections.
  • Induces physical and mental calmness.
  • Anxiety and Depression 

How To Prepare for The Cupping Therapy

Smiling young man in a red t-shirt eating a healthy fresh salad and showing thumbs up isolated on white background

Usually, you will be asked to consume food at least an hour before your cupping session. Especially for diabetic patients, it is advised to take food at least before 3 hours. Your body increases the blood flow post-consuming food to help digest the food smoothly.

However, this results in less flow of blood to the other tissues in the body. It is necessary that the cupping is performed on your back, chest, or any area of the body. So, when you fast before performing the session, the blood can reach these tissues where cupping is required.

Multiple medical vacuum cupping therapy and medical leech of the human body.

Make sure you are well-hydrated. Cupping releases cellular waste through your lymphatic system and it requires plenty of water to do so. The lymphatic system helps to filter your blood, balance bodily fluids, and prevent various infections. Drink plenty of water before and after the session for better results.

Skincare or skin protection is an essential step before cupping. The skin area that undergoes the procedure needs to be healthy and prepared for the session. Shaved, scarred, sunburned, or exfoliated skin can experience extreme irritation. Ensure to recover your skin for healthy and relaxing cupping. 

What To Expect During the Cupping Therapy Session

Adult masseuse giving cupping massage to young ecuadorian girl lying on the spa table with her eyes closed. Horizontal and high angle photography.

Once you are in the session, a skilled practitioner will place specially designed cups on the area that needs to be treated. The cup can be made of glass, silicon, or rubber accompanied with or without heat/fire depending on the type of therapy required.

During this process of cupping, you will feel a sucking sensation due to the suction of the cup. The cups will be left on the areas to be treated for a few minutes. The time of the session may vary depending on an individual’s condition.

After the completion of the therapy, the practitioner will gently remove the cups placed. You might feel skin sensitivity, a decrease or increase in energy, and a release of emotions after the session, which is normal and is a part of the body’s healing process.

The suction induces better circulation and has an impact on the tissues as deep as four inches beneath the skin. It then frees up the airways and the toxins get out of your body through skin pores. It acts as a catalyst activating the hormonal reactions which deliver a load of benefits to the body.

What You Must Avoid After the Session

a woman making thumbs up and thumbs down hands sign

After you are done with the cupping session, food items such as processed meat, caffeine, alcohol, and sugary drinks must be avoided for at least 5 to 6 hours. These food items can cause an interruption in the process of the treatment.

Make sure you do not take hot showers, saunas, and strong air conditioners post cupping therapy. Heavy physical activities should also be avoided to allow the healing process of the body to get the best effective results from the treatment.

Post cupping, your skin stays hyper-sensitive for a few hours. Avoid introducing any chemical products on your skin where cups were placed. Let your skin recover. Cover the treated area to keep it warm and protected. 

Qualifications For a Professional Cupping Therapist

 Young female physiotherapist using glass suction banks on the back of her patient during physical therapy session

Cupping therapy can only be performed by a certified professional or a licensed acupuncturist. It is essential to have a deep, relevant, and accurate proficiency to be a professional cupping therapist.

This knowledge and license can be achieved through courses and training in this ancient traditional medicinal therapy. However, a person must be at least 10th or 12th passed or have an equivalent qualification from a recognized board. 

Precautions That Are MUST

cupping massage isolated on white

  • The cups should not be placed on the skin for more than 10 minutes. Normally, the cups are placed in one area for 3 to 5 minutes per session. The extension of time is adjusted depending on its requirement.
  • Make sure you take proper guidance from an expert before performing cupping therapy at home. Do not use cupping with the wrong techniques.
  • Certain dangers of cupping therapy involve major skin discoloration, scars, or burns. However, severe side effects from cupping are rare. Usually, side effects from this treatment will fade away in a few days.

Important Considerations

Shot of a little boy sleeping in a bed and cupping glass laying on his night table

  • Children and Old People – The introduction of cupping therapy for children and the elderly must be gentle and gradual. The procedure, pressure, and type of cupping are adjusted as per the comfort and suitability of every individual in these age groups.
  • Pregnancy – During pregnancy, cupping cannot be performed on the lower or upper abdomen. It may be performed till the 6th month with necessary care and cautions. Wet cupping is highly advised to be avoided during the pregnancy as it involves bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding – As the labor and delivery lead to loss of a lot of body fluids and other changes, blood cupping therapy is not recommended till 8 -12 weeks post-partum. Gentle cupping can be done while breastfeeding. However, breastmilk should be expressed before the session to prevent the infant from being exposed to altered breastmilk taste.
  • Certain Medical Situations – This treatment is highly contradicted for people with severe fluid deficiency, diagnosed or suspected with symptoms of hemorrhage, tumors, or tuberculosis, and skin conditions or allergies such as psoriasis and eczema.

How To Perform Cupping Therapy at Home

Necessary Things to Know Before Doing Therapy at Home

Suction cups placed beside of a female

Before you perform cupping therapy at home independently, remember you must consult a doctor or a skilled professional. Initially, it is necessary to understand the procedure, the required type of cupping for you, as well as its benefits and precautions. As the therapy may not be suitable under certain health conditions, talk to your doctor for ensuring its safety for you.

Cupping Therapy Set Isolated on White

You will find many cupping kits available in the online market. However, you may want to learn cupping at home without fire or heat. Before you start the process, make sure you have oiled your hands properly. Oil is extremely crucial as it helps to create suction and to glide the cups smoothly on the skin.

Ways To Manage Pressure Levels

A hijama master performs a vacuum blood suction procedure for a young girl. Close-up

To get familiar with cupping therapy and its different pressure levels, start with light suction. As you increase or decrease the suction, notice how your skin lifts. Once you see the higher bubble of skin formed in the cup, that means the fascia has loosened up and lymph can move. However, this process has to be done with patience and ease.

Once you understand applying and releasing the pressure, you will need to understand the moving of the cup with help of oil applied (on hands and desired cupping area). Place the cup on your skin and guide it towards the targeted area. If the lifted skin is too red or feels uncomfortable, gently squeeze to release the suction and remove the cup.

Young woman getting treatment at medical clinic. Fire cupping cups on back of female patient in Acupuncture therapy

Adjust and decrease the pressure next time while placing the cup. Remember to be slow and not rush the process. In case, you are trying to include any massage in your therapy session, make sure you stroke the cup towards the heart to allow the detox to flush through your system properly. Please be easy on yourself while you learn this technique.

Cupping Areas to Avoid at Home

Patient receiving Chinese cupping treatment to shoulder

Avoid cupping lymph nodes in the neck area while performing therapy at home. Unless you are a certified professional, this area must be avoided. If you are interested in getting cupping therapy for these areas, there are many trained and skilled traditional providers available for the service. No doubt, your body will thank you for it later.

IMPORTANT NOTE –To perform cupping independently, consider undergoing a session with a professional first. It will give you a better understanding of the cupping therapy techniques and how it is done. Ask questions to the practitioner to avoid complications for an effective outcome.

Recovery Post Cupping Therapy

Traces after the hijama procedure on the body of a young girl. Close-up.

The recovery phase can vary between 3 to 7 days post the cupping therapy session from person to person. It can take longer for the skin discoloration to fade away completely. The continuity of the treatment makes the resulting marks lighter over time.

Cupping causes the skin pores and channels to open up, which makes your body vulnerable and easier to be attacked by outside wind and cold. This can lead to energy reduction and trigger pain and stiffness. Make sure you keep the cupped area warm and covered till the recovery. 

Reasons Why Cupping Therapy Went Viral

Cupping therapy. Cups from the patient's back

Celebrity cupping enthusiasts are mounting in number. Hollywood celebrities are falling head over heels for cupping treatment. Starting from Brad Pitt, Jessica Simpson, Lady Gaga to Victoria Beckham, and a lot more stars.

Athletes using cupping treatment as a well-guarded weapon:

Young blonde sportswoman injuried touching her neck at the promenade.

It enhances an athlete’s physical performance level. It relieves stiffness and back injury which is a typical barrier to an athlete’s efficiency level allowing him /her to achieve full potential.

A great pain reliever:

Friend supporting her friend with cancer

Cupping therapy is known to relieve pain, and even unbearable pain caused by cancer can be mitigated to a much-reduced intensity by the cupping technique.

Boosts Immunity:


It fortifies the immune system and drives the blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body thereby curing cough and cold.

Induces relaxation:

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment - Acupuncture

Cups help lift pressure in the region where the muscles are stiff and tense. This provides a relaxing feeling.

Mitigates digestive disorders:

Digestion problems,Woman with stomach pain after eating

It reduces irritable bowel syndrome, stomach ache, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, diarrhea, water retention, and gastrointestinal diseases. 

Important Facts About Cupping Therapy

Vacuum Cupping Therapy Background. Young female physiotherapist applying suction cups on the leg of her patient, to relieve muscle pain, closeup detail.

  • Cuppings use natural energy meridians in your body. There are 12 meridians in the body through which the energy flows.
  • Your back alone has around 5 meridian points. Different points can be accessed as per the applied treatment for healing.
  • The reason why cupping got its hype is its prominent marks seen on celebrities and athletes recently. This mark indicates stagnation levels in the body.
  • The continuity and regular cupping treatment lead to a reduction in these dramatic purple marks, as the stagnation reduces as the circulation improves.
  • Cupping is not painful as it sounds or looks. A person might feel some discomfort or pinching and sensitive sensations, which are normal, temporary, and bearable.
  • Experiencing mild flu-like symptoms or increased fatigue is common post cupping therapy. These are signs of the natural detoxification process happening in your body.

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