Benefits of Cupping and Acupuncture in Tandem

You’ve probably seen pictures of celebrities with those distinctive red cupping marks on their bodies, but did you know that cupping is a service we provide at Matawan Physical Therapy? Yes, the same treatment used by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Phelps is available right here in Matawan–and the benefits of cupping and acupuncture in tandem are impressive!

What Is Chinese Cupping?

Acupuncture has been popular outside of China for decades, but cupping is a more recent phenomenon here in the United States, although it dates back to 3000 BC in Asia. There are two types of cupping: dry cupping and wet cupping. Dry cupping involves using glass, bamboo, silicone or earthenware cups on the skin to draw congested blood and energy to the surface in order to break up stagnation. Wet cupping uses the same method, but an incision with a small scalpel or pin prick is made on the skin first and the suctioning process draws out a small amount of blood.

To create suction, the cups are warmed. This can be done by swabbing alcohol on the bottom of a cup and lighting it on fire or placing a cup over a small flame. If this sounds a little bit scary, don’t worry–the cups are pleasantly warm, not uncomfortably hot, when applied to the skin and open flames are not used near your body, only on the cups before they’re applied. As the air inside the cups cools, it creates suction.

Sometimes we move cups after applying them in a process called gliding cupping. Think of this as like a massage, but in reverse–muscles are pulled upwards rather than having pressure applied downwards. Cups are typically left on for up to 10 minutes.

What Are The Benefits Of Cupping?

In Chinese medicine, it is believed that stagnation–the blockage of qi–is the root of pain. Cupping is a way to alleviate congestion and restore the natural flow of energy within a patient’s body. 

Cupping is also done to help stimulate the lungs in patients with respiratory conditions, detoxify the blood, relieve muscle spasms, and support digestive health. Cupping has even been shown to treat acne and other skin conditions. Most of our clients appreciate cupping for the restorative feeling they get after a treatment–it’s especially helpful for sore muscles and those annoying kinks we all get in our neck and shoulders from too much time spent on devices.

Is Cupping Backed By Science?

While there isn’t a whole lot of medical research about cupping just yet, there are some exciting studies that show promising results. A literature review in PLoS One found that cupping is a potential treatment for herpes zoster infections. A more recent meta-analysis in BMJ Open found significant effects in pain reduction for neck pain patients with the use of cupping.

Why Are Cupping And Acupuncture Used Together?

You might be surprised to find out that cupping actually is a form of acupuncture! By combining cupping with traditional acupuncture in one treatment, sometimes referred to as needle cupping, we’re able to treat deep tissues as well as promote healing at the skin level through the insertion of acupuncture needles.

Both cupping and acupuncture seek to activate meridians on the body to promote the flow of qi, or energy, but they do so in different ways; by using cupping and acupuncture in tandem you’re amplifying the benefits of each treatment. Research shows that cupping combined with acupuncture is superior to acupuncture alone when it comes to pain relief post-treatment. Typically, we insert acupuncture needles into the skin first, then place the warmed cups over them.

What Conditions Can Cupping And Acupuncture In Tandem Treat?

Pain, particularly muscle aches and spasms, is one of the primary conditions we treat with cupping and acupuncture in tandem. In general, any condition that we treat with acupuncture can be treated with cupping as well–migraines, constipation, chest congestion, and acne can all be treated with cupping and acupuncture.

Are There Any Side Effects Or Dangers Of Using Acupuncture And Cupping Together?

Aside from those tell-tale red circular cupping marks, the most common side effects are bruising and soreness. During and immediately after treatment, you may feel dizzy, light-headed or nauseated. There’s also a small risk of infection, but we mitigate this by treating skin with antibiotic ointment.

Want To Learn More About Our Treatment Services?

If you’re interested in finding out more about cupping and acupuncture treatment in Matawan, NJ, please contact Matawan Physical Therapy at (732) 662-4400 to schedule your initial assessment.