Hands-free cup carrying: it’s the way of the future. As a kid, I pioneered this technology. I would put an empty cup over my mouth, suck in, and then hold my breath. It created a vacuum in the cup that suctioned it to my face. Sure, I might have looked like a doofus walking around with a cup dangling from my chin, but that paled in comparison to the extra productivity of having two free hands!
Little did I know, I had discovered a medical tradition that goes back to 1550 B.C.E. Egypt.
Cupping Therapy is just what it sounds like – using cups as therapy. Tiny cups, usually made of glass, are emptied of air and stuck to the skin. The suction created by the vacuum pulls the skin into the cup, ultimately resulting as a temporary welt. The benefits, claim the practitioners, are vast, ranging from temporary pain relief and increased blood circulation to reliving menstrual problems and aiding the lungs.
Combined with the belief of Qi (the life energy that flows in our bodies,) many Chinese practitioners use cupping as a way to regulate energy flow. But cupping isn’t strictly Eastern medicine. The British Cupping Society is bringing cupping back to the UK, Poland still uses cupping in modern medical practice, and many acupuncturists in the U.S. are also trained cuppers.
|This woman is a trained cupper - look at that form!|
Although the CDC says nothing about the health benefits of cupping due to a lack of studies, they do warn against bruises that can result from improper technique.
Blood Cupping – Hijama
One variation of cupping is called Wet Cupping, or Hijama. It is particularly popular among Muslims because it was sanctioned by the Prophet Muhammad in the Qur’an. During Hijama, the therapist pierces the skin with a lancet before applying the cup. With the cup in place, the suction pulls a small amount of blood out of the wound. This is thought to purify the body.
Although bloodletting (phlebotomy) isn’t practiced much in the West anymore, for many years it was the primary healing technique of most physicians. Got a cut on your leg you don’t want to become infected? Let’s cut it again and let your blood clean it out!
|This same idea had many medical professionals prescribing leech treatments as well.|
That being said, although Hijama draws blood from the body, it is a minimal amount. Although Hijama is not advised in people with bleeding disorders or blood pressure issues, it is relatively safe.
Instead of using a vacuum or pump to suck the air out of the cups like most dry cupping methods, fire cupping uses a burning alcohol swab to create suction. The heat is also supposed to create a soothing sensation. I don’t know about you, but when I watch this video, I’m anything but soothed.
I’d go into the science of air pressure as a function of temperature, combustion reactions, and the properties of vacuums, but I wouldn’t want to bore you. Suffice to say, lengthy explanations would make this article “suck.”