Fire Cupping – An Alternative Medical Treatment
Fire cupping is a type of acupressure therapy; that is pressure applied to acupuncture points on the body. Specially designed glass cups are heated in such a way that when they are applied to the body a vacuum is created and the skin is gently pulled up into the cup.
In its simplest form, fire cupping is a type of deep tissue massage that promotes stress relief and relaxation. As a medicinal therapy, cupping has been used to treat a variety of diseases such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, colds, digestive diseases, musculoskeletal pain, some gynecological disorders, gastro-intestinal disorders, lung diseases, and paralysis, though it can be used for other disorders as well.
Thoughts about the ability of fire cupping to treat disease vary widely. The American Cancer Society states that there is no scientific evidence that fire cupping is an effective treatment for cancer or any other disease. Instead, Western medicine thinks that fire cupping helps stimulate circulation which in turn brings oxygen, white blood cells and lymph to affected areas which may alleviate symptoms of a disease rather than cure it.
On the other hand, practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine believe that a person's chi, or vital energy, gets thrown out of balance when they are ill or have been injured. In Eastern society, it is thought that fire cupping pulls out blockages in the patient's chi which allows energy to flow more freely and promote healing.
Patients who have had fire cupping done report benefits that range from feelings of deep relaxation and pain relief to the actual curing of the common cold.
How is Fire Cupping done?
The aim of fire cupping is to get the cups to suction to the body of the patient. This vacuum created by the cups is thought to draw out impurities and balance the body's chi. In ancient times, creating this vacuum was done by holding the cup over an open flame and then quickly attaching it to the body. One had to be very careful, though, to avoid heating the cup itself lest it burn the patient.
More modern techniques include swabbing the inside of the cup with rubbing alcohol and setting fire to it before placing the cup on the body. The vacuum created by the cup cuts off the fire's oxygen causing it to burn out quickly.
In practice, cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or in large number to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. The skin may be lanced before placing the cup, so that the vacuum draws fluids (primarily blood) into the cup as part of the treatment. Sometimes oil is applied to the skin which promotes greater suction and allows the cups to be easily moved around the body. Movement of the cups is limited to fleshy areas: the movement should not cross bony ridges, such as the spine. A cup is removed by pressing the skin around its lip. This releases the built up pressure by gradually letting air inside. A typical cupping session lasts around 15 minutes.
The main side effects of fire cupping are the unsightly marks left behind by the cups. Similar to a hickey, this is caused by the pooling of blood in the cupped areas. Although the marks make patients look like they got into a fight with a giant octopus, fire cupping does not cause pain. In general, the longer a cup is left on, the more of a circular mark is created. Most patients report a pulling sensation when the cups are on their skin and when removed, the marks feel more like mild sunburns. The treatments are generally not painful, and should usually be discontinued if there is more than a very minor discomfort.
Because fire is sometimes used, there is a risk of getting burned either directly by the fire or by the cup if the glass itself gets heated. Fire cupping can also cause swelling due to the buildup of excess fluid in the cupped area.
To avoid problems, cups should not be applied to broken, scabbed, or inflamed skin. Additionally, patients should not get this treatment if they have a high fever, are having convulsions, bleed easily, or are prone to cramping. Pregnant women, young children and weak elderly people should avoid fire cupping as well.
While fire cupping may sound like an odd way to treat a medical condition, it is, perhaps, a much safer route to go than using the commercial drugs found on the market today. It certainly is a treatment worth considering if you are looking for a natural way to take care of pain and disease.