What is Chinese Cupping Therapy?

What is Chinese Cupping Therapy?

Chinese Cupping therapy, also known as hijama, is a fascinating alternate form of medicine that has received mentioned in historical accounts dating from possibly 5,000 years ago. It is often used in conjunction with more commonly known forms of treatment such acupuncture and acupressure. The basic idea behind cupping therapy is to place cups on the skin to create a vacuum so the blood is drawn to the surface of the skin in specific parts of the body that need healing. Although modern medicine is still doubtful of the complete benefits of this therapy, scientists are increasingly conceding that in the hands of expert practitioners, it might help many patients suffering from a number of ailments.

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Although the therapy is called Chinese cupping, it is known to have been practiced by many different cultures in all parts of the world ranging from east Asia to Europe, Middle East where it is called hijama, northern Africa and even by North American Indians. The exact location where the technique first developed is not known but historical accounts point to the possibility that migrating people carried the knowledge with them to other parts of the world.

Cupping therapy is based on the belief that using suction or vacuum on specific points on a patient’s body can help remove obstructions in the natural energy pathways inside the body and thus cure ailments (more on how cupping works). Variations in the technique such as wet cupping also pricks the skin to eliminate a small amount of toxic blood and other harmful substances in the body that cause illnesses. When combined with acupuncture, needles are first inserted in the skin over which cupping is administered.

In today’s times, there are a range of materials that can be used to craft the cups that therapists use to create suction. While ancient healers used available materials like animal horns and bones, seashells and later, ceramic and bamboo, healers today use medical standard silicone cups, rubber cups and glass cups. The latter are most useful because they allow the therapist to watch the effect on the skin while performing the healing.

Cupping today is performed under sterile medical conditions making it quite safe. Most patients do not experience any major discomfort but therapists might offer to provide local anaesthesia on the patient’s request. The equipment used is carefully sterilized under high pressure and temperature. Later, the healer could perform basic massage or hydration on the cupping site to reduce the possibility of bruising. In cases where wet cupping must be administered, the therapist covers the area with antiseptic medication and appropriate bandaging to ensure speedy healing. These precautions reduce the chances of infections greatly.

By way of added precautions, therapists might also choose not to perform the healing on certain patients such as pregnant or menstruating women, patients that tend to experience high bleeding or patients with varicose veins.

Just how effective cupping therapy is, is still being debated but many patients have found that it has helped them immensely. Modern medicine however, recommends that patients not rely completely on this form of healing but only use it to supplement other conventional forms of treatment such as medication and when necessary, surgery.