Olympians Spot On About Benefits of Cupping

Cupping is a therapeutic treatment that has been used for thousands of years. Still very popular and in common use today, it has grabbed the attention of many people in the United States that are not familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Professional athletes, such as MLB players and many competitors at the 2016 Olympics, have been using this treatment for years. Some athletes are using cupping as a singular therapy, and while they may be experiencing relief, the benefits would be more profound when using TCM as a Whole System. If you are experiencing pain, looking for relief and would like to find a place that offers cupping in Brooklyn that is safe, you have come to the right place. We highly recommend cupping therapy only be administered by a properly trained professional that also understands Whole Systems TCM and the energy system to avoid adverse effects and reactions.

"Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com"

"Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com"

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

Traditional Chinese Medicine was developed in China thousands of years ago. It is a healing system based on the life energy called Qi which flows through specific meridians and pathways in the body.  The relationship between our mind, body and spirit with the world around us should be in harmony and we are healthy when all energy is balanced. Our habits, diet, lifestyle, stress, emotions, genetic constitution, seasons and environment all play a role in the free flow of energy.

Obstructions in the flow of energy in our organs and the meridians will cause imbalance, manifest symptoms and develop to disease. Using an extremely comprehensive method of identifying patterns of disruption and having a deep understanding of the relationships between organs and energy pathways, a skilled TCM practitioner will use food as medicine, lifestyle and nutritional counseling and herbs to help bring back balance. The most popular physical treatment in the TCM toolbox is acupuncture, which involves the insertion of fine needles at very specific points located on the organ/energy meridians. At these points, the energy in the meridians can be accessed and stimulated. Each acupuncture point has very specific, defined actions. Other effective treatments in this toolbox are gua sha, tui-na, moxibustion, electric stimulation, acupressure, tai qi, qi gong and cupping.

What is Cupping?

Acupuncture and Acupressure are not the same treatment but both part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They both follow the same energy meridians and points but have different applications and different effects on the body, blood and energy. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate these points and Acupressure uses pressure at these points. Cupping is a form of acupressure.

Instead of the practitioner using their hands a device is used; in the case of cupping, a glass or bamboo spherical cup. A flame is placed inside the cup and quickly extinguished when it is turned over to be placed on the skin, creating a temperature change inside the cup. This action creates pressure downward around the lip of the cup and suction at the center where the skin is slightly lifted off the body into the cup. This vacuum effect can be achieved via a few different techniques. The combination of heat, pressure and suction at specific points on the energy/organ meridians is what brings about balance and therapeutic outcome.

Video Footage Credit "hafakot/shutterstock.com"

What are the benefits of cupping?

Top athletes strive to be in optimal physical and mental condition so it is no surprise that cupping is front and center at the 2016 Olympics. Here are just a few benefits Cupping has to offer:

  • Encourages free flow of qi and fresh blood which may be blocked or obstructed by overuse, injury, diet or environmental factors.

  • Loosens muscles and affects muscle and connective tissue up to 4 inches below external application site. Commonly used for muscular pain in the back, neck and leg & pain and obstruction at the joints.

  • Engages the parasympathetic nervous system which reduces stress and anxiety, reduces blood pressure and stimulates digestion.

  • Releases toxins and decreases inflammation.

  • Clears congestion in the lungs.

Is cupping scientifically proven?

All Traditional Chinese Medicine recommendations and treatments (including cupping) are completely individualized which means every application of treatment, diet recommendation and herb may differ from person to person based on the pattern causing imbalance.  Even if symptoms or diagnosis are similar from a Western perspective, how a person reached that diagnosis is absolutely not the same from an Eastern perspective and therefore treatment is not the same. This proves to be problematic in Western scientific studies as the test groups are not controlled. The treatment would need to be identical for each individual and this simply is not how TCM works. This is basically the issue when attempting to isolate acupuncture, cupping or any singular aspect of TCM for studies. Until scientific studies are conducted in a manner that is in alignment with how the medicine and treatments are actually administered, relevant and accurate studies will not exist here in the United States. Also, Western medicine has yet to figure out how to measure the presence or flow of Qi. That doesn’t disprove anything and that does not relegate results to placebo effect even though they try to do so. It just means Western Science does not have the answer and is not designing studies correctly in the first place which seemingly they have a hard time admitting.

That said, a 2012 study has shown that cupping may be more than a placebo siting the following: “Meta-analysis showed cupping therapy combined with other TCM treatments was significantly superior to other treatments alone in increasing the number of cured patients with herpes zoster, facial paralysis, acne, and cervical spondylosis. No serious adverse effects were reported in the trials.” There have been a number of studies showing that acupuncture can reduce pain by up to 50% without the use of pharmaceuticals and many citations about its effectiveness for pain relief.

Why does scientific proof seem to be such a roadblock? Honestly, we don’t know.  If the people with funding for large scale studies really wanted to study TCM they could. If the public needed less medication and procedures, that would be a potential threat to the bottom line of certain industries.. First thing, understand that acupuncture or cupping alone are hardly ever the only part of the treatment for a presenting pattern. For example, if you want to know if TCM works for reducing headaches, you can’t only test people solely receiving acupuncture and only stimulating the same two points. That is just as useless as inserting needles at random points that may or may not even be acupuncture points. You would have to use all TCM methods together and use all acupuncture points that are indicated for the individual and all recommendations that would be indicated for the individual, as you would in real life application, and measure outcome from there.

This method doesn’t fit in the western paradigm where a standard medicine is given at a standard dose to treat the symptom of pain. TCM treats the pattern of imbalance that is causing the pain versus just blocking the message of pain that your body is sending.

The effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine have been determined by THOUSANDS of years of recorded patient observations and reported outcomes by patients. We don’t understand how anyone can dispute that much data, basically being the largest and longest study ever conducted in medicine. It is disheartening when practitioners who are supposed to “cause no harm” are ignorant to the evidence because it doesn’t fit into their flawed system of belief. While Western medicine is extremely effective and can save many lives, it has a limited scope of understanding. Alas it is still a young medicine, much like a teenager that thinks they know it all.

Whether or not positive outcomes are scientifically proven and understood from a western perspective...Whether or not the positive outcomes are anecdotal...Whether or not the positive outcomes are placebo... Does it really matter if it works? Isn’t that the whole point; that it works? People should not be discouraged from therapies that are effective and have no harmful side effects. All patients would benefit from open minded practitioners embracing an integrative approach that is less pharmaceutically aggressive when it is not necessary.

For more information about treating Pain, Injuries and Fibromyalgia with Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine, visit our specialty page here.

Our team at Garden Acupuncture has over 50+ years of combined experience utilizing the Whole System of Traditional Chinese Medicine. We are your source for all the tools in the TCM toolbox including acupuncture and cupping in Brooklyn.