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Cupping Therapy

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Types of Cupping Therapy continued...

During wet cupping, a mild suction is created using a cup that is left in place for about three minutes. The practitioner then removes the cup and uses a small scalpel to make superficial skin incisions. Then he or she performs a second suction to draw out a small quantity of blood.

After the procedure, the site may be covered with an antibiotic ointment and bandage to prevent infection. The skin's appearance generally returns to normal within 10 days.

Cupping therapy supporters believe that wet cupping removes harmful substances and toxins from the body to promote healing.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

The British Cupping Society says cupping therapy can treat a variety of conditions. This has not been backed up by studies. But the organization says cupping therapy is used to treat:

Supporters also believe that cupping therapy can reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body. And they say it can promote mental and physical relaxation and well-being.

Side Effects of Cupping Therapy

Cupping is considered to be relatively safe, especially when performed by trained health professionals. Potential side effects include:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Burns
  • Bruises
  • Skin infection

According to the British Cupping Society, cupping therapy should be avoided by the following groups:

  • Pregnant or menstruating women
  • People with metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread from one part of the body to another)
  • People with bone fractures or muscle spasms

The organization also says cupping therapy should not be applied to sites on the body that have:

  • A deep vein thrombosis
  • An ulcer
  • An artery
  • A pulse that can be felt

According to the American Cancer Society, one problem associated with cupping therapy is that patients may skip conventional treatment: "Relying on this treatment alone and delaying or avoiding conventional medical care for cancer may have serious health consequences."

Also, a health care provider may mistakenly think marks left from cupping therapy are evidence of physical abuse.

Like many alternative treatments, cupping therapy has not been extensively studied. Researchers say that most cupping therapy studies have been small and poorly designed. More studies are needed to prove or disprove claims of health benefits.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on October 06, 2014
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