Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as a suction device that is placed on the skin. There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. 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. Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.
Cupping can be static, in which the cups are applied to the skin and left for a period of time. Or, dynamic in which cups are moved to produce a lifting effect on the skin.
Traditionally cupping would tend to follow the meridians of the body which is typically a traditional Chinese medicine method. At our clinic however, we use the cupping method to improve circulation and promote soft tissue mobility.