TCM: Cupping

By Simon Smith, December 22, 2013

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Have you ever seen a person walk by with what appear to be horrendous circular deformities on their back? In all likelihood the individual in question is not actually afflicted by a terrible skin disease, but has recently undergone a session of cupping (拔罐). This process sees a series of glass cups applied on or near the meridians of the body in an attempt to relieve tension or aches.

Cupping is thought to help alleviate chronic and acute pain, colds, flus, sprains and strains – pretty much anywhere you’ve got a blockage of qi in the body. Slightly vague in its claims, the remedy is an adjunctive treatment and is commonly used in addition to acupuncture.

This is how it works: a cotton wool bud doused in 95 percent alcohol is burned inside a glass cup to remove the oxygen and create a partial vacuum; the cup is then applied to the body and the suction pulls up a small dome of flesh into the glass. Patients are often left with marks that can range from green to red to yellow in color.

It may sound like medieval torture, but it shouldn’t hurt. Although anyone can perform it, it’s best to go to someone who has been properly trained in the tradition. A common mistake by practitioners is to leave the cups on for longer than the adequate 15 minutes. 

// Guangzhou Elizabeth Women's Hospital, 484 Kangwang Zhonglu, Liwan District, Guangzhou 广东广州荔湾区康王中路484号(400 8869 268)

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