Chinese Medicine is best known for its use of acupuncture and herbal medicine as tools for healing, but it also uses several other methods, such as cupping. Cupping is a technique that uses small glass or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin. Suction is achieved by using a flame to consume the oxygen inside of the cup which creates a vacuum. It is then quickly placed on the body where the skin, fascia and superficial muscle layers are drawn upwards into the cup. It is like the inverse of massage – rather than applying downward pressure to push muscles, it uses negative pressure to pull them upward.
Cups can be left in place for 5-10 minutes at a time in order to strongly increase local circulation and activate healing beneath the cup. With the application of oil to the skin, cups can also be moved to glide along meridians, muscles or over organs to affect a broader area. Through suction and negative pressure, cupping releases rigid soft tissue; drains excess fluids and toxins; loosens muscle adhesions, lifts connective tissue; and invigorates blood flow to tissue up to four inches deep to the skin layer. For most people, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation.
Cupping is an especially valuable treatment for the lungs when applied to the upper back, directly over the organ. The technique is used to help break up sticky phlegm and clear congestion from a common cold, flu or bronchitis. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve.
Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Today it is still used as a safe and effective treatment for many lung issues. Try it this season if your lungs are continually congested!