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Cupping is a form of therapy that involves the suction of the skin and the surface muscle layer to stretch and be drawn into a cup. Cupping is used to encourage the blood flow of the body and treat conditions such as acute or chronic pains, respiratory problems and musculoskeletal problems.

There are two methods of cupping: dry and wet. Each method includes different types of cupping.

The two most common types of dry cupping are fire cupping and suction cupping. In the procedure of fire cupping, the inside of a glass cup is heated with fire, then placed onto the skin.

As the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created causing the skin and muscle layer to rise and redden into the cup. In the procedure of suction cupping, a plastic or silicone cup, with valves at the top that attach to hand pumps, are placed on the skin then pumped to create suction by removing the air. The cups in both methods are to be left on the patient’s skin for 2 to 10 minutes.

In the procedure of wet cupping, the skin is punctured by sterile needles before either the fire cups or suction cups are placed on the skin. This technique draws out the blood, thus removing harmful substances and toxins from the body. The cups are to be left on the patient’s skin for 2 to 10 minutes.

Is it safe? Does it hurt?

After the cups are removed from the session, temporary red marks might show on the patient’s skin. These marks might remain on the skin for up to 10 days. These marks are a result of bruising and minor bleeding from broken capillary blood vessels. As with any heat therapy, there may be a chance of burning and scarring. Further, wet cupping carries a risk of exposure to and transfer of infections and bloodborne diseases, if needles are not properly sanitized.

Evidently, cupping therapy is effective in the treatment of cellulitis. Cupping therapyhas been used with various level of evidence (I to V) in many conditions such as cough, asthma, acne, common cold, urticaria, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, soft tissue injury, arthritis and neuro-dermatitis.