Cupping is a therapy that is especially useful in the treatment of problems of local qi, or blood stagnation in the channels, and is usually performed as an alternative to acupuncture.
The cups that are used are generally of rounded glass construction. The cups are warmed via a burning taper, held for a very short period of time inside the cup. The cup is then quickly placed over the selected area.
Due to the candle flame, all of the oxygen in the cup has been removed and when placed open side down, a vacuum is created, which anchors the cup to the skin and pulls the skin upward on the inside of the glass.
The resulting pressure encourages the flow of qi and blood in the area beneath the cupping, and the local stagnation begins to clear. Cups are generally only left on the skin for a few seconds, but may also be left for an extended time. Cupping therapy that is more lengthy can result in local bruising that can be quite painful.
It is imperative that this method only be performed by licensed acupuncturists, and even when performed correctly, can result in marking (non permanent) and bruises.