Fire Cupping for Pain Relief, Fertility and Respiratory Conditions

Curious about Cupping?

You may have noticed the increased conversation about fire cupping in the past year.  Michael Phelps did a great job of bringing this age-old therapy to the public eye when he sported dark cup marks throughout his races at the Olympic Games in Rio.  I am so glad he did, because more people seem open to this effective, non-invasive treatment for their pain since it made it’s way into the mainstream.  What most people don’t know is that fire cupping is great for many different conditions including fertility and respiratory problems.

When adding cupping to my acupuncture treatments, I start with something called “flash cupping”.  This method is done by placing the cup on the painful area, and then taking it off immediately.  This is repeated several times until the area becomes pink, indicating that we have increased circulation.  This form of cupping generally doesn’t leave any marks, so it’s a great way to get my patients used to cupping while making sure that they can tolerate it well.  From there we can leave the cups stationary or move them up and down sore muscles for 5-10 mins.

How Does Cupping Work?

So how does cupping work?  I’m asked this question often, and I can understand why.  The cup marks left behind after a treatment can look pretty menacing.  How are bruises going to make you feel better, you ask?  Don’t be fooled.  These big dark circles may look like bruises, but they are not painful and generally offer a great deal of relief.

The big marks left behind by cupping are due to capillaries that have ruptured in response to the suction that is applied to the affected area.  Most of my patients are surprised to find out that these big marks aren’t painful in the least.  The pain we normally experience with a bruise is actually due to the injured tissue, not the blood that has left the capillaries.  On the contrary, most of my patients find this procedure to be extremely relaxing, offering immediate tension relief in a specific area.

Cupping has been shown to promote blood and lymph circulation which can speed injury healing and decrease inflammation.  The blood that leaves the capillaries actually stimulates more blood and lymph to flow to that particular area.  Increased blood flow means increased oxygen to the muscle tissue, and greater efficiency of excreting waste materials like lactic acid.  When someone has a “stubborn” knot or area of tension, cupping is my go to.

What Does Cupping Treat?

In my practice, I most often use cupping for neck and back pain.  Moving these glass cups over very tight and tender muscles decreases pain and tension immediately for my clients. Other conditions that respond well to this therapy are respiratory infections, infertility, digestive problems and headaches, just to name a few.

Cupping for Fertility

You might be having a difficult time making the connection between what you’ve read so far and how all of this might help someone get pregnant.  Here is just one example of how it can help!  Many women I have worked with that are trying to conceive have painful periods.  Sometimes this is due to conditions like endometriosis or uterine fibroids.  Other times it is not associated with any condition, but certainly less than optimal for my patient.  In Chinese Medicine, we consider these conditions in the category of “blood stagnation”, which means that the blood is not flowing optimally.  Since cupping can help with blood circulation, you can see how using this procedure on the low abdomen or low back may help unblock the uterus and help the blood flow more freely.  This free-flowing blood helps nourish the ovaries and developing eggs, while also clearing the way for proper implantation.  If you have painful periods, cupping may be just the right medicine for you.

Cupping for Respiratory problems

Cupping has also been shown to boost the immune system due to its ability to move blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body.  For this reason, it can be very helpful for chronic and acute respiratory infections, asthma and the common cold.  Cupping on the upper back can help speed recovery in these conditions and break up phlegm and congestion in the chest.

The great thing about cupping is there really aren’t many adverse side effects.  This makes it a great therapy for chronic or acute pain when trying to limit the amount of pain medication you are using. 

Hi! I'm Angela

Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Integrative Wellness Consultant and Mood-Gut expert.

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