Cupping is an ancient form of alternative medicine. It dates back hundreds of years and has been used by many ancient cultures. There are various forms of cupping: fire cupping is the application of fire inside glass cups to heat the air, the fire is removed and the cup quickly placed on the skin. The heat creates a vacuum inside the cup which allows it to adhere to the body. Another form of cupping is using plastic cups and a suction pump. The cup is placed on the body and the suction pump is attached. This allows the doctor to control the amount of suction inside the cup. The stronger the suction the deeper into the tissue you effect.

At Cornerstone Naturopathic, cupping is used to decrease muscle tension, decrease fascial restrictions as well as manage pain and strip muscles. Stripping muscles involves applying mineral oil to the skin prior to attaching the cup. Once the cup is in place, it is moved over the length of the muscle.  Very little suction is used at the beginning and after a few passes it is increased gradually based on patient feedback.

Cupping has been successfully applied to conditions such as Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), shin splints, neck pain and fibromyalgia.  A recent study was published in the BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine Journal in which half of the patients with chronic non-specific neck pain received five treatments of cupping while the other half did not. The patients who received cupping reported decreases of their chronic neck pain. Researchers also observed that mechanical pain sensitivity differed significantly between the two groups. You can read the abstract for the study here.  Another recent study was conducted on a small number of patients with fibromyalgia. They found that cupping reduced fibromyalgia symptoms in both pain ratings and number of tender points. This study can be found here

Cupping side effects may include bruising if the cups are left in one place for a period of time. However, at Cornerstone we use cupping primarily to strip muscles which means that the cups are in a constant state of motion and are never left idle which significantly decreases the chances of bruising.

Cupping is rarely used on its own and is only one tool among many of a Naturopathic Doctor (ND).  Based on your individual presentation, a ND will prescribe the most effective course of treatment to decrease symptoms while treating the root cause.  Ultimately treatment is aimed at improving quality of life, which depending on your symptoms may include cupping.

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