Cupping Therapy: History, Definition, and Notes


Cupping therapy also known as vacuum Cupping or Hijama cupping is popular now a days and it’s not a new modern type of therapy.  Suddenly Cupping became popular during 2016 Olympics where swimmer Michael Phelps was spotted with number of reddish circles on his body.  Cupping is an traditional medicine  used by ancient people of Asia ,Eastern Europe, Middle East, Latin America and Chinese to treat various illness. 

History of Cupping 

Cupping technique and styles have often resembled in various geographical regions of Ancient Egypt,Unani,Chinese and Latin American cultures and they  were used things they get in local region and materials may include animal horns,bamboo,metal and glass .In North Africa Cupping therapy was first documented on Eber's Papyrus(1550 BC).In Asia it is mentioned use of animal horns for draining fluids from the body and  it is mentioned by GE HONG during JIN Dynasty. In Arabic countries Hijama are recommended in Al Qanun Fi'l Tibb,Canon of Medicine to treat Menstrual conditions. Chinese also used Cupping in various therapies.


Cupping therapy is an alternative medicine in which trained therapist creates a local suction by applying heated special cups on to the skin. This suction on the skin creates tiny blood vessels to expand and improves blood circulation on the applied area and removes toxins. There are two types of Cupping therapy they are:

·         Dry Cupping therapy 

·         Wet Cupping therapy 

Apart from these two commonly used types there are various other methods being followed they are:

Needle Cupping 

It involves the combination of acupuncture and Cupping procedure, first acupuncture needles are applied on the skin and then cups are placed over each needle.

Massage Cupping 

After creating suction by heated cups, therapist moves the cup across the skin to get massage effect.

Facial Cupping 

In this type, silicone cups are placed on the face, it helps in detoxifying the skin and rejuvenates.

Types Of Cups Used In Therapy

·         Glass 

·         Bamboo 

·         Silicone

·         Ceramic

·         Plastic 

Dry Cupping Therapy 

In this type therapist uses flammable substance such as herbs, alcohol or paper in to the cup and light on fire and gets heated .After fire goes out of the cup the cup is placed upside down on the skin. These heated cups creates vacuum on the skin and makes the skin  to expand. The cup is generally placed on the skin for three minutes . some may use silicone cups which they can easily move from one place to another to create massage like effect. Modern cups such as air pump is used to create suction in which the amount of air can be controlled by the therapist. In both types of therapy our  skin will have mild discomfort, burns or bruises. All these skin discomfort will fade away within a week or two.

Wet Cupping Therapy

Wet Cupping is  also known as Hijama. Same like in Dry Cupping therapy they place heated cups on the skin it creates mild suction by placing the cup for three minutes. Then the therapist removes the cup and uses an lancet or scalpel to make a tiny cut on the expanded area and they draw small quantity of blood. Mostly three to five cups per session are performed. More than five sessions are not safe. After the procedure ointment and bandage are used to prevent infection. Skin bruises will fade away with a week or so.Therapist claims Wet Cupping removes toxins from the body and promotes healing. When tiny cut is made on skin body reacts to injury and promotes natural healing process.

Cupping Therapy Is Used To Treat 

Cupping therapist uses this therapy to various medical conditions and they are

·         Acne and hives

·         Poor appetite 

·         Indigestion 

·         Chronic low back pain

·         High blood pressure 

·         Anaemia

·         Infertility 

·         Menstrual cramping 

·         Anxiety 

·         Migraines

·         Knee pain 

·         Nasal congestion


·         Pregnant women 

·         Cupping should  either be avoided or closely monitored on older people 

·         Children 

·         Bleeding disorder like haemophilia

·          Blood clotting problems like severe thrombosis and Stroke 

·         Epilepsy 

·         Psoriasis 

·         Eczema 

·         While using anti coagulant drugs 

·         Open wound 

·         Trauma 

·         During fasting 

·         Tuberculosis 

·         Heart diseases 

Benefits of Cupping 

Cupping therapist claim there are broad scope of benefits with the practice. It relieves muscle recovery and healing. Mainly used to treat various pains such as knee pain, neck pain, back pain, skin issues like acne. Reduces inflammation, increased blood flow and reducing muscle tightness Wet Cupping helps in excreting toxics from the blood.

Seek Doctors Advice Before Cupping Therapy 

 Cupping therapy in general claims that there no   severe complications and it is a low risk therapy. People may have any kind of health problem and whenever we want to use a alternative medicine it’s better to seek doctors advice first prior to any treatment or therapy. This in terms helps people avoid  from getting complication and serious health conditions. Whether you decided to get an Cupping therapy tell all your medical history and your recent medications to your doctor, after his assessment it is suggested to follow doctors advice to avoid future complications.

Trained Cupping Therapist 

Before starting out your treatment be aware of choosing well trained practitioner for therapy. There are various Cupping practitioners in health and wellness field. Cupping expert you may need depends upon which treatment you are going to take. From massage therapist, acupuncturist and physical therapist there are well trained practitioner to perform the treatment.

Side Effects 

·         After the treatment, circular marks on skin occur and it is  caused by bursting of tiny capillaries on the skin.

·         Infrequent nausea 

·         Headache 

·         Dizziness 

·         Burns

·         Scar formation 

·         Skin discolouration 

·         Skin infection 

Cost of Treatment 

Cost of Cupping more likely to be depend on the geographical location. Average cost range between 1000-8000 rupees depending the treatment. 

 Facts About Cupping 

·         Cupping was first documented in ancient medical book (Ebers Papyrus in 1550 BC)

·         Facial Cupping is popular among celebrities for facial rejuvenation 

·         It can be combined with other therapies like acupuncture, massage and physical therapy

·         Treatment is short and only takes place 3 minute per session 

·         Very popular among  athletes and celebrities 

Cupping On Children and Adults 

Cupping has been employed on adults for treatment but selecting correct category of treatment is difficult for older people. Because age of 60 or above, their skin becomes dehydrated or saggy. Applying therapy on their skin may cause adverse effect and bruise may worsen and takes more time to heal. After treatment they may Dizziness and it is better to avoid this therapy because may be they can’t tolerate this level of pain due to ageing. In children’s they have sensitive skin which is easily prone to infections and can’t tolerate pain and it is no longer advisable for children to proceed this therapy. As same for adults, correct category of therapy is difficult to select for the treatment of children’s also. 


Research on Cupping are taking place and the results were inconclusive. Some researchers say it a pseudoscience and there is not more evidence about the therapy and its results. In 2011 research it was reported it reduces pain and also stated the doubt  remains. In 2019 research about Cupping, reports could not identify the effects of Cupping. Large clinical trials are needed to get future data about its benefits.


  In general Cupping therapist claim it is safe and has limited side effects. However, precaution is necessary when taking the treatment in terms of avoiding further complications or leading to any life threatening conditions .People who are in empty stomach such as in fasting or people who are taking anticoagulant drugs should avoid the therapy. Person with open wounds or any trauma taking the therapy may worsen the condition. Patients with lethargy and exhaustion should not go for a treatment more than 5 minutes per session and avoid Cupping over the eyes. Sterlied cups must be used in treatment, unsterile cups may lead to blood borne diseases. Children’s should be avoided and people with the age of 60 or above it is better to avoid the therapy, if needed consult doctors advice prior to therapy. Before the therapy tell all your medical conditions and medications to the therapist and counsel with him, that he/she (patient)is suitable for the treatment without getting complications in future.