One very common area to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas, too — particularly on fleshy sections of the body. Its advocates say it has other applications, as well. 24 Cupping is not advised over skin ulcers or to the abdominal or sacral regions of pregnant women. 25 An illustration from a medical textbook “Exercitationes practical” published in 1694 shows a man undergoing cupping on his buttocks. The following report is derived mainly from a survey of reported cupping techniques published in 1989 1, supplemented by information from acupuncture text books 5–9. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material like leather to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. Their use can be traced back to ancient Indian Ayurveda practices and leeches are still sometimes used in modern medicine to restore circulation after surgery. “Cupping is one of the big things you do ... to be healthy,” adds Stein. A person receiving fire cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. The method was described in his book A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, in which the cups were actually animal horns, used for draining pustules. Greta holds a cotton ball and wets it with alcohol. In this process, the skin is cut and the blood is pooled into the suction cup. The symptoms of excessive blood varied between individuals and genders, with females thought to be imbalanced if their menstrual cycles were disrupted, or delayed, and males if they were low on energy and sluggish, Totelin explains.
One of the traditional indications for cupping is dispelling cold in the channels. A wonderful ancient tool has found its place in the contemporary world of health care. “Globalization of medicine is attracting Western peoples to this holistic practice,” says Stein. The cups are removed by lifting one edge, which allows air in and breaks the seal and vacuum. There are very few conditions in which cupping should not be used, such as high fever, skin disease or tendency to bleed easily. It's been part of Chinese medicine for over 2,500 years.