This summer the ancient therapy of cupping made it all the way to the Olympics. We Chinese medicine lovers couldn't be prouder! Thank you Mr. Phelps.
Did you know there are many beneficial uses for cupping besides recuperating muscles post-workout? One of our favorites is to boost immune strength.
With the close of summer near, it's time to talk immunity. At Lanshin we are already thinking about preparing our bodies to make it through the coming Fall like champs, in other words...without getting sick. Our first order of business, is cupping.
To boost immunity we focus treatment on what I like to think of as the capital of the immune system: the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Keeping this zone free, clear and flowing is an absolute must in all treatments for those with chronic colds and flus, sinus infections, respiratory infections, and cough.
The reverse is true too. If these areas of your body are subject to the stagnating effect of chronic tightness, you may find yourself vulnerable to the onset of a cold or flu. Ever notice how right before you go under the weather your neck and shoulders ache like crazy? And shortly after your nose starts running? This is the perfect moment to run for the cups.
Cupping's suction action liberates stagnated circulation in tissues and pulls toxins out to the surface, where they are properly metabolized and removed from the system. This leaves many with the famous mark of Chinese detoxification - red or purple hickies.
With the recent hype about cupping, you may have heard medical "experts" actively naysaying the therapy for this very reason. Recently in The Atlantic, James Hamblin implores "Please, Michael Phelps Stop Cupping," an article in which he claims "That suction pulls his skin up into the cup, breaking capillaries and causing blood to pool and stagnate, creating a bruise....A bruise is a blood clot, though, and clotted blood is definitionally not flowing."
May I remind Dr. Hamblin that a bruise is the result of trauma to tissues - a hit that breaks capillary vessels, causing blood to seep or hemorrhage into surrounding interstitial tissues. The force of suction from a cup is nothing compared to the force of an injury that bruises, and therefore breaks ALL affected capillaries both stagnated and healthy. Cupping can't touch a healthy blood vessel, only a stagnated one that is already pathologically clogged and full of pressure.
Vessels within inflamed, pathological tissue are vulnerable and break easily to the suction of a cup. This causes the once "clogged" vessel to reform into a healthier, normalized condition. See, in cupping we are dealing with tissues in which blood was already pathologically stagnating. Healthy tissue does not bruise nor produce clotting under the force of cupping.
If you see someone who had cupping looking sucker punched by round circles, it is because they already had a particularly intense level of backed up toxins and stagnation in stiff, problematic tissue. You'll see this often in patients during or post flu. Healthy tissues subjected to the same cupping force, will show nothing but a pinking of the skin that quickly disappears after cup removal. It's not uncommon to see intense red or purple marks in the pain area after cupping, and absolutely nothing a few inches over where the tissue is healthy.
Cupping restores the proper currents through your system, giving you back the energy you once lost to tension. Post cupping, patients with an oncoming cold often notice the disappearance of runny nose, head fog, stiffness and aching, and that general sensation of "coming down" with something. Used on those with a cold or flu already in full effect, cupping often helps the illness run its course more rapidy and prevent lingering symptoms.
But even better is to use cupping to prevent a cold or flu altogether by keeping a free and clear current flowing in your neck and back starting now and through the Fall and Winter.
Now, the caveat. Cupping isn't right for everyone. In our practice, we green light it for most of our patients, but there are people with certain conditions (i.e. clotting disorders) who aren't good candidates. So if you're not sure whether it's for you - just ask your acupuncturist. It's his or her job to let you know if you're good to go under the cup.