Cupping Lakewood

History of Cupping

The History of Cupping

The therapy of fire cupping has been utilized by the Chinese for thousands of years, but its origins can be traced back as far the ancient Egyptians in the third century BC. It has even been said that Hippocrates and Galen were great advocates of cupping. Early recordings describe creating a partial vacuum in animal horns, bamboo tubes, or clay pots, and then applying them to the skin of an individual. The negative pressure created caused the underlying tissue to be pulled into the cup, resulting in an increase of blood flow to the area. This therapy was used to treat a wide range of ailments and was even used in emergency medical situations.

Most recently, cupping popularity peaked after many witnessed Michael Phelps in the Rio Olympics with these large circular looking marks on his back. If the most decorated olympian of all time with 28 medals was finding benefit from this treatment, everyone figured that there must be something to it. Many news outlets started researching its history and found that it had roots in various civilizations and cultures, and even had modern medical terminology used to describe it as “myofascial decompression release”. Regardless of when and where it truly started, cupping is and has always been an integral part of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, and we do our best here at The Root Acupuncture clinic to continue those traditions.

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How does your office perform cupping? What makes you unique?

Today, we use specialized glass or silicone cups that have been properly cleaned and sterilized prior to each use. A cotton ball soaked in alcohol is used to create a flame that is briefly placed inside the glass cup to create a vacuum effect. The cup is then placed onto the skin of the patient, which creates a pulling action up and away from the body. Cupping can be best summarized as a “reverse massage” – instead of digging into the skin to help relax and loosen your muscles/tendons/fascia, we use a pulling action instead to create an entirely new way of helping your physical body to relax. In most cases, a topical liniment is also applied to the skin of the patient before the fire cupping treatment begins – this further increases blood flow to the area and also allows us to comfortably slide the cups along the surface of the skin while maintaining the suction in the cups.

The method described above is what we call Fire Cupping and it is the only way that we do things in our clinic – it is the most traditional method of cupping and the form that we find most effective. Some other clinics use plastic cups that have rough edges and are suctioned onto the body with a hand pump mechanism – while we understand that every clinic and practitioner are different, we find that these plastic cups are painful and do not provide a balanced treatment for our patients. We always strive to make your experience here at our clinic the best possible and will always use top of the line products in everything that we do.


We primarily use traditional fire cupping in our clinic as a way to alleviate pain and tightness in the body, improve overall range of movement, detoxify the body, and help alleviate colds and other respiratory ailments. As mentioned before, most individuals find the experience to be very enjoyable (with many people even describing results that surpass a traditional deep tissue massage). We commonly treat the back and shoulders, but cups can be applied to most areas of the body where it is needed.

Over 90% of our patients love the sensation of cupping and it is usually the most requested modality to wrap up our regular follow-up acupuncture treatments. The remaining 10% of patients find that the sensation is a little too tender for them. Like any medical treatment, everyone is different and responds differently to various modalities in Chinese medicine and acupuncture. If a patient does find that sliding the cups on the back feels a little too tender, we usually make adjustments to ease the strength of the cups, try lighter silicon cups, or simply leave the cups in stationary areas one at a time (i.e. pulling the cup off the skin, relighting the cup, and placing it on a new area) to make it a more comfortable experience.

The whole process typically takes between 15 to 20 minutes at the end of a regular follow-up treatment, or an extended 30 minute a la carte  treatment can also be booked as a separate service. While there are various styles that we use in our clinic while performing fire cupping (e.g. slide cupping, stationary cupping, and/or flash cupping), the cups can often leave red/purple marks on the back, known as petechiae, that will usually fade away between 2 to 10 days. For this reason, we typically discourage getting cupping done if you plan to expose your back in a future activity where it might not be appropriate (ex: being the bridesmaid in a wedding or sporting a backless dress at an event), unless you don’t mind the extra attention. A lot of our patients love the cupping marks and wear them proudly – in a funny way, they are like walking billboards for our services. We can’t tell you how many lifelong patients that we have gotten after they approached a patient at the pool inquiring about the marks on their back and where they got it done.

The petechiae markings mainly appear in areas of stagnant blood flow on the body (i.e. areas where there was not proper blood flow and circulation in the body).  The cupping marks are not painful to the touch – at most they can feel a little sensitive the first day, like the new skin after a peeled sunburn. The ointment we use on the back also has menthol and camphor in its ingredients to give your back a cooling “icy hot” or “tiger balm” feeling. The marks will fade away as the body increases overall blood flow to the area to further aid in the healing and recovery process.