Utilization Of Cupping In The Treatment of Pain

Vancouver Cupping Treatments: It’s so Simple, Why is it so Effective at Relieving Pain?

In my practice at Qi Integrated Health, I use cupping primarily in the treatment of pain and muscle tightness. This modality of treatment has many other uses, including clearing phlegm from the lungs and scar reduction. Today, we will look at the utilization of cupping in the treatment of pain.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, pain is seen as a stasis of blood. There are many reasons blood can stop flowing properly. For example, have you ever been out in the cold for a period of time with your neck exposed, only to wake up with a stiff neck the next day? In TCM we call this an “attack by wind cold”, and the physiologic understanding is that blood is shunted away from cold areas. Both have the same end result: blood is not moving and therefore causes pain and stiffness in the affected area. So, how does cupping help in the treatment of a stiff neck? I would like to help you understand how cupping works for pain and tightness and when to use it.

How cupping works: Using either a flame (how I do it) or a pump to draw oxygen out and create suction, a glass cup is placed on a specific area and the skin and tissue below are pulled up into the cup. You will feel a pressure that I liken to the feeling when your massage therapist applies pressure to an affected area and holds that pressure to allow the body to relax and the muscle to release. The difference is that the pressure created by the cup is caused by a pulling away of the tissue rather than a pushing in. This action brakes up adhesions between skin/muscle and muscle/muscle and frees entrapped vessels and nerves, effectively stopping pain.

Cupping will often leave a perfectly round, raised bruise. Interestingly, the shade of the bruise is an indication of the health of the tissues below it. I often see darker bruising in spots where the pain was the worst. This is because that where there is most pain and static blood, the cups will pull that oxygen-depleted blood to the surface. The advantage to this is that it allows for new blood to flow into the deeper tissues as the superficial circulation moves the “bad” blood away (I often aid this process by applying a topical liniment or plaster).

I can go on and on about the uses and benefits of cupping treatments for pain and/or tightness, so please feel free to contact me anytime with any of your questions. Or visit us at Qi Integrated Health Clinic in Vancouver for Cupping Treatments.

Kiem Schutter
Clinical Director and Vancouver Registered Acupuncturist at Qi Integrated Health Clinic