The art of “Cupping“
Cupping refers to an ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (by using a change in heat or by suctioning out air), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. In some cases, the cup will be moved while the suction of skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle, the technique is called “gliding cupping” and provides relief from pain and stress. Cupping will encourage localized increased circulation which increases the bodies normal healing in the area.
Cupping is applied to certain acupuncture points, as well as to regions of the body that are affected by stress or pain (where the pain is deeper than the tissues to be pulled). Movement of the cups is a gentle technique as a lubricant allows the cup to slide without causing much subcutaneous bruising. A certain amount of bruising is to be expected though, both from fixed position cupping (especially at the site of the cup rim) and with movement of the cups, but it will normally disappear in 3 to 5 days.
Heating of the air in the cups is the method used to obtain suction: the hot air in the cups has a low density and, as the air cools with the opening sealed by the skin, the pressure within the cups declines, sucking the skin into it. The cups are will be somewhat warm and have a stimulating effect.
Cupping has proved to be very effective in relieving lower back pain and is often used in conjunction with acupuncture to treat back pain. Professional athletes also use cupping to eliminate stiffness and soreness in muscles caused by heavy training or competition and to stay on top of their game. A great example of this has been the 2016 Olympic games where many people noticed the telltale bruise-like cupping marks on many of the athletes during competition. Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps gave several interviews with regard to his positive experience with cupping for rapid muscle recovery. You can read about some of the interviews and see pictures at some of these sites: