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Curious about Cupping Therapy?

cupping, saint mary's
Image credit: Saint Mary’s Medical Group

Have you heard of Cupping Therapy? Chances are with the recent attention garnered from the Olympics, you may have been made aware of an ancient Chinese medicinal therapy. Here to give us the skinny is Megan Clowers, OMD, a licensed acupuncturist at Saint Mary’s Center for Family and Integrative Medicine.

In her practice, Dr. Clowers combines therapies like cupping, acupuncture and Asian body work to help individuals relieve pain, promote healing and reduce stress.

RMB: So, first things first, what is cupping?

Dr. Clowers: Cupping is a therapy used in Chinese Medicine in which glass, plastic, or wooden cups are suctioned on top of the skin.

RMB: OK, how does it work exactly?

Dr. Clowers: In my practice I use a technique called “fire cupping.” While it may sound like something you’d see at the circus, the treatment itself is pretty straightforward. After discussing the problem area with the patient I will have them lie down on a massage table where they can comfortably relax for the treatment. From there, I take a cotton ball soaked with alcohol and ignite it with a flame. After the cotton ball is lit, I place it in the cup to create a vacuum, remove the cotton ball, and then set the glass cup on the skin. The sensation feels like a mild suction. Keep in mind, there should be no burning or pain associated with this therapy; at most there may be minimal discomfort. The theory behind cupping is that creating strong suction over specific points helps draw blood to the specific area, which can help healing.

RMB: Why is blood flow to the surface of the skin a good thing?

Dr. Clowers: Blood flow is essential to healing throughout the body. If you don’t have blood flow then you aren’t going to heal properly. Cupping stimulates blood flow to a specific area and therefore can better target areas of the body that could use some relief.

RMB: Are there any side effects?

Dr. Clowers: The most prevalent side effects are bruising, which you’ve probably seen recently on Olympic athletes and even on some celebrities, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston. In most cases the bruising lasts anywhere from seven to 10 days.

RMB: So who is the ideal candidate for cupping?

Dr. Clowers: There are a variety of individuals who benefit from this therapy. It is very popular with athletes and active individuals who are looking for quicker, more localized relief for sore or fatigued muscles but even less active people can get relief from a cupping session. In addition, those with respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and congestion have been seen to benefit from a cupping therapy session.

RMB: Is this treatment safe for kids?

Dr. Clowers: Yes, like acupuncture, cupping can be an effective treatment for children and is safe for most individuals. It’s important to know that what works for one individual, regardless of age, might work differently for another. If you are considering trying cupping therapy for you or your child, it’s crucial to talk it over with a qualified provider.

Here’s a video with Dr. Clowers talking about Cupping Therapy:


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