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Michael Phelps has visible cup marks from cupping therapy

Cupping Therapy – The Safe Way In NZ

Cupping Therapy – the Safe Way In NZ Cindy Lee

26 August 2020

Cindy is a traditional chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner who is a part of the Physio-Logic team. Her experience and training provide her with a different skill set from our physiotherapy team that is much welcomed! She challenges our point of view often, and works with plenty of combat athletes alike.

Your practitioner needs to know where to send the traffic light engineers – no point fixing a working traffic light!

   Have you ever seen big pepperoni marks on your friends’ or favourite athletes’ back? wonder what it is? It is a little technique that is called Cupping Therapy.

   Why did they get cupping therapy? Most likely, people whoever had those marks might have been complaining about some sort of pain or whatever unease situation. I will run you through where it began, how it works, the benefits, and how you can get cupping therapy done safely for yourself!

Where cupping therapy started from? 

   In short, cupping therapy is one of ancient remedies that has passed down to today from Asian(China & Korea), Egyptian, or Middle East cultures in particular. Apparently, cupping therapy spread to Italy and was popular for gout and arthritis treatment during the Renaissance. Broadly speaking, cupping therapy belongs to China’s ancient medicine with over 2000 years of history. In my culture(Korean), I grew up with putting cupping cups on my parents’ back when they come back from work and complaints of sore necks.

How does cupping therapy work? 

   There are many different ways to practice cupping therapy. Fundamentally, the process of cupping therapy is applying a cup-like tools directly onto the skin around the affected parts by using either a vacuum applicators or a flame to create a positive pressure. Personally, the traditional method of a flaming glass cup is my personal preference. Nowadays, you can find vacuum cupping sets fairly easily out there. It has been modernized to be handy and convenient for anyone to use. However before you do it yourself, make sure you know what you are doing!

What benefits of cupping therapy can give to us? 

   When cupping therapy is applied, the body experiences physiological changes from the pressure applied. This increases blood flow, reduces pain thresholds, improves local anaerobic metabolism, and it can also reduce inflammation as well as modulate the immune system. Most people would assume that cupping therapy is only used to relax tight muscles, however the principles are deep rooted in TCM (Tradition Chinese Medicine), and is not as simple as that. TCM(Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioners identify an issue as either blockage or depletion of Qi (energy) flow. An analogy to help you understand, here is a narrative scenario with a traffic jam on a road. We can imagine cars as Qi(energy), traffic lights as traffic controllers, and cupping therapy as traffic light engineers. If a traffic light stops working, cars will be jammed or backlogged. A traffic light engineer will arrive to fix the traffic light so that the traffic can flow normally again. Your practitioner needs to know where to send the traffic light engineers – no point fixing a working traffic light!

How safe is cupping therapy?

   I can confidently say that Cupping Therapy performed by a practitioner who knows what they are doing is a pretty safe treatment method. However, even if practice correctly, you may experience some side effects from cupping therapy. It can be classified into preventable and non-preventable events.

Preventable Cupping adverse event:

  • Scar formation

  • Burns

  • Blisters

  • Abscesses

  • Skin infections

Nonpreventable Cupping adverse event:

  • Headches

  • Koebner phenomenon

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Tiredness

  • Insomnia

   Considering the possibly harmful risks of cupping therapy, you should always always consult a trained practitioner, and do not trust a practitioner using cupping therapy who has not had the appropriate training. Overall however, it is safe to use and can give you a variety of benefits.

Go find a practitioner who can safely do it for you!

To book in with Cindy, contact us on, or 0800 756 750

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