History of Cupping
There is reason to believe the practice dates from as early as 3000 B.C.; the earliest record of cupping is in the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes in 1550 B.C. Egyptians used cupping. Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 B.C. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 B.C.) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. This method in multiple forms spread into medicine throughout Asian and European civilizations.
There are two types of cupping: dry cupping and bleeding or wet cupping (controlled bleeding) with wet cupping being more common. As a general rule, wet cupping provides a more "curative-treatment approach" to patient management where as dry cupping appeals more to a "therapeutic and relaxation approach".
The cupping procedure commonly involves creating a small area of low air pressure next to the skin. However, there is variety in the tools used, the method of creating the low pressure, and the procedures followed during the treatment, the cups can be various shapes including balls or bells, and may range in size from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76mm) across the opening. Plastic and glass are the most common materials used today, replacing the horn, pottery, bronze and bamboo cups used in earlier times. The low air pressure required may be created by heating the cup or the air inside it with an open flame or a bath in hot scented oils, then placing it against the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin slightly inside. More recently, vacuum can be created with a mechanical suction pump acting through a valve located at the top of the cup. Rubber cups are also available that squeeze the air out and adapt to uneven or bony surfaces. In practice, cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or with many to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. Skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to move across the skin slowly. Depending on the specific treatment, skin marking is common after the cups are removed. This may be a simple red ring that disappears quickly; the discolouration left by the cups is normally from bruising especially if dragging the cups while suctioned from one place to another to break down muscle fiber. Usually treatments are not painful.
While the history of wet cupping may date back thousands of years, the first documented uses are found in the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Today, wet cupping is a popular remedy practiced in many parts of the Muslim world.
Alternatively, mild suction is created using a cup and a pump (or heat suction) on the selected area and left for about three minutes. The cup is then removed and small superficial skin incisions are made using a cupping scalpel. A second suction is used to carefully draw out a small quantity of blood and has been endorsed by the British Cupping Society.
In Finland, wet cupping has been done at least since the 15th century, and it is done traditionally in saunas. The cupping cups were made of cow's horns with a valve mechanism in it to create an under pressure on them by sucking the air out. Cupping is still used in Finland as an alternative medicine.
The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area.
This treatment is also valuable for the lungs, and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person's asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
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