Cupping therapy: How effective is it? Does it have any side effects? Experts tell everything you need to know

2022-07-02 08:43:55 By : Ms. YFN Jewelry

Sometimes over-cupping an area can make it sore. (Photo Credit: Instagram/@esoweimages)

Of late, cupping therapy has become the new go-to therapy to feel rejuvenated and get rid of toxins and muscle soreness. WWE athlete Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and celebrities like, Kim Kardashian, Ashley Graham Jacqueline Fernandez and Jennifer Aniston have all praised the many advantages of cupping therapy.

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But how can one feel and experience the much-talked-about therapeutic benefits of cupping therapy? To find out what the fuss is about and whether you should dive in or not, News9 spoke with some of the best experts in the world and here's everything you need to know about it.

Hyderabad-based physiotherapist Dr Sneha Tiwari explains: "Cupping is a form of alternative therapy designed to relieve pain in athletes quick by improving blood flow in the affected area. It's been linked with relieving muscular pains and providing more flexible muscles."

"Cupping is an integral part of many East Asian medical systems," she continues. Ge Hong, a Taoist alchemist and herbalist from China, wrote about cupping around 300 AD, and since then it has remained popular in the region. American cupping practitioners declared 2005 the "cupping therapy year."

According to Noida-based physiotherapist, Dr Himanshu Vats, cupping is an ancient method of treatment used in broad medical conditions (like arthritis, localised inflammation, stress, cervical pain, backache, various autoimmune diseases etc) by placing the cups ( silicon, glass, wooden, plastic, etc) usually on the localised areas of pain.

"Dry cupping works through many mechanisms," explains Dr Hemali Mehta, a Mumbai-based sports physiotherapist. "Decompression happens due to the vacuum (negative pressure) that is created which lifts the tissues, causing separation between myofascial layers and temporarily increasing blood flow. The negative pressure (vacuum) causes red marks in the cupped area — this is called ecchymosis," she adds.

According to Dr Vats, there are various types of cupping, but the most popular are dry cupping and wet cupping. "Simply put, both are mixed with acupuncture and a tiny incision that facilitates blood flow during the cupping technique," he explains. This relaxes the tight tissue, promotes blood flow, generates heat, and eliminates toxins."

"There are certain theories that may be used as references for the aforementioned benefits, such as the pain-gate theory or the reflex-zone theory, which are based on the management of diffuse noxious inhibition with activation of big afferent fibres which help block the pain gate."

"Cupping uses a cup to pull an area of skin into a suction that decompresses muscles and connective tissue," explains Dr Tiwari.

"This promotes blood flow to the compromised area, enhances circulation and helps to increase the body's healing processes — almost like a backward deep tissue massage. "

"There are two popular types of cupping method: stationary and sliding. Stationary cupping uses suction only, keeping the cups in place for a set time, usually 5 to 10 minutes. Sliding cupping is more like a deep tissue massage where the provider moves the cups over the area of pain or concern," she adds.

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Most often, according to Dr Tiwari, you will see minor bruising near the treated region. The bruise may be pink, crimson, occasionally purple, or even dark brown in colour. However, within two weeks, most bruises disappear. Additionally, the skin's outer layer may undergo modifications. "Following therapy, it's critical to look after oneself. Eat healthful meals, stay warm, stay covered up, and drink lots of water. After a cupping treatment, you should refrain from swimming and taking a shower for three hours " Dr Tiwari recommends.

Dr Mehta believes that dry cupping when combined with other adequate clinical therapies can aid in muscle relaxation, increase joint range of motion, improve healing, and enhance recovery. "Dry cupping in a sports setup can also be used to enhance performance since it temporarily improves blood circulation to the cupped areas," she adds.

There are lots of theories and claims regarding the effectiveness of cupping therapy but from the medical perspective, no single theory exists to explain its beneficial effects, warns Dr Vats. "It must be backed up by massive randomised trials, reverse research techniques, and authenticated novel research."

According to the experts, cupping is generally safe but can cause mild bruises, swelling and rashes.

Dr Vats advocates there are so many hidden and underlying conditions which can be extremely hazardous and fatal if cupping is done at home without any supervision of a professional.

Dr Mehta points out that cupping at home without an adequate assessment will only cause symptomatic relief and not address the root cause of the problem/pain. "There are several health conditions in which a person should not be cupped. To rule out those problems, I would consider seeing a physiotherapist," she adds.

One must realise that cupping therapy is not the treatment, it can only be used as an alternative and a placebo. In fact, it is more crucial to correct posture, build muscle, consume a good diet, and lead a healthy lifestyle than to choose cupping therapy.

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