Chinese suction cup: how to use it?

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Chinese suction cup: how to use it?

It is one of the tools most used by traditional Chinese medicine to both drain and relax the body. The cupping technique, also called “cupping”, involves placing these bell-shaped tools on different parts of the body to stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation. An efficient way to circulate energy.

What is a Chinese sucker?

It is an ancestral well-being object and still popular in traditional Chinese medicine but which was also used by the Romans and Egyptians several millennia ago. Made of clay, bronze, cow horn or bamboo, the suction cups we use today are mostly made with glass or plastic.

These small, bell-shaped tools are placed on specific areas of the human body – acupuncture points and painful places – to act on the circulation thanks to the suction they exert. They can also be used in motion on oiled skin.

A liberating aspiration?

The suction cup is not intended to heal but to relieve pain. It exerts pressure through a suction effect on the skin and muscle which causes decongestion releasing the circulation. A rush of blood will appear on the surface of the skin, under the suction cup. The area usually turns reddish to purplish, usually leaving hickey-like marks even after the suction cups have been removed.

The 1751 edition of the dictionary of the French Academy explains then that the purpose of this object of well-being is to “attract with violence the moods from within to the outside”. The 1832 edition adds that suction cups allow “to create a vacuum by means of fire, or a suction pump, in order to lift the skin and produce local irritation”.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the suction cup is the means of freeing a painful organ from its blockages.

How to use a Chinese suction cup?

According to the traditional technique, the suction cup is used hot. A flame is approached to the bell in order to empty it of its air thanks to the combustion of oxygen before placing it on the back of the person.

More commonly, the practitioner uses a suction cup with a manual pump which, by a suction effect, will empty the air present in the bell.

Chinese suction cups are used both on fixed points on which they will be placed for several minutes – from 2 to 20 minutes depending on the parts of the body – or in massage to improve blood circulation.

For the second option, we start by applying oil to the chosen area before placing the suction cup and exerting light pressure. It is then enough to slide it from the bottom to the top in order to respect the blood circulation and the lymphatic circulation.

In which cases to use Chinese suction cups?

The acclaimed indications are as numerous as the possible areas of application:

  • sports recovery;
  • back pain;
  • joint pain;
  • digestive problems;
  • tensions in the neck or trapezius;
  • migraines, etc.

Controversial results

Practitioners recommend one to three sessions spaced several days apart for lasting results. They are used to relieve pain but do not cure a disease. They can be used at any time of the day to release tension or soothe pain.

The benefits of Chinese suction cups, however, remain controversial for scientists. In a Chinese study published in the journal PLOS in 2012, researchers recommended “To wait for more rigorous research to draw conclusions” as to the possible results of these objects of well-being.

Chinese cupping contraindications

The use of Chinese suction cups requires taking customary precautions. It is recommended not to use them in case of:

  • open or unhealed wound;
  • burning of the skin;
  • pregnancy (during the first trimester);
  • cardiac pathologies;
  • varicose veins.

It is also not recommended to use Chinese suction cups on children under 5 years old. If in doubt, speak to a healthcare professional.

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