Cupping

A technique of TCM, used to apply pressure to the skin by creating a vacuum using heated glass, bamboo or plastic cups. Used to treat a variety of disorders.


Cupping is an ancient technique in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) therapy involving the placement of a heated glass, plastic, or bamboo cup on the skin which creates a vacuum. When 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.  It has been widely used to treat different disorders in its own right or in combination with acupuncture and blood-letting therapy in modern Chinese Medicine.


Cupping involves numerous different techniques. These include suction cup therapy, flash-fire cupping, gliding cupping and alcohol-fire cupping. The TCM practitioner will choose a different technique according to the patient’s condition and complaints.

Suction cup therapy uses a small cotton ball soaked in 95% alcohol. The cotton ball is lit, and then inserted into the glass cup to create the vacuum, the cotton ball is then removed and the cup is inverted and quickly applied to the area of skin or acu-point. A few cups are used within a single treatment.

Gliding cupping is when the cup may be moved while the suction on the skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle.

Flash-fire cupping The glass cups are depressurized by providing some fire in the cup to heat up the air within just prior to placement.  For example, a forceps is used to hold a cotton ball and the cotton ball is then dipped in alcohol.  After that the cotton ball is ignited and held in the cup for few second, then rapidly applied to the skin and the process is repeated a few times, until the skin has acquired a red colour.

Alcohol-fire cupping a small amount alcohol is put into the cup and lit; the cup is then rapidly applied to the skin and left for 5-10 minutes.

Generally, during all the kinds of cupping, the cup is left in place for about 10 minutes.  The skin becomes reddened due to the congestion of blood flow. The cup is removed by pressing the skin along side it to allow some outside air to leak into it, thus getting rid of the vacuum within the cup and releasing it. Some bruising along the site of the rim of the cup is expected.


Cupping is a safe, non-invasive, and inexpensive technique. It is used by practitioners of Chinese medicine to treat:

  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Lung diseases (especially chronic cough and asthma)
  • Lung infections
  • Pain relief
  • Muscle and joint pain and spasms, particularly on the back
  • Paralysis

To learn more about conditions treated by cupping, please Contact Us.