by Kaleem Ullah (PhD, MBBS (yr.5), MSc, BSc, BSc)
“Cupping Therapy is an ancient medical treatment that relies upon creating a local suction to mobilise blood flow in order to promote healing” (BCS 2008).
Brief History of Cupping Therapy:
The use of Cupping Therapy is documented in the history of most great cultures and civilisations of the past with the earliest available records revealing extensive use by the ancient Egyptians, Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures. In the west, Cupping Therapy was part of the basic repertoire of clinical skills a doctor would be expected to understand and practice until the latter part of the Nineteenth Century with some Eastern European countries such as the Balkans and Bulgaria continuing to practice Cupping Therapy to this very day. In parts of Western Europe there has been a recent upsurge in the interest from both public and academic perspectives. Scientific studies have began researching the effects of Cupping Therapy in an attempt to better understand the mechanisms underpinning this fascinating medical treatment that has truly withstood the test of time. Celebrity endorsements by Professional sports players (Football Players and Olympic Swimmers), leading Hollywood actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow through to Senior International Politicians such as the Turkish Foreign Minister have further raised the profile of Cupping Therapy.
Types of Cupping Therapy
Broadly speaking there are two types of Cupping Therapy; Dry Cupping and Bleeding or Wet Cupping (Controlled Medicinal Bleeding) with the latter type (Wet Cupping) being more commonly used. The BCS teaches both the practise of Dry and Wet Cupping Therapy. From the research and opinions gathered, it is acknowledged that Wet Cupping Therapy provides a more ‘curative-treatment approach’ to patient management whereas Dry Cupping Therapy appeals more to a ‘therapeutic and relaxation approach’. Of course, different practitioners and cultures will vary on their understanding and approaches.
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
Cupping Therapy has successfully been used to treat a broad range of medical conditions such as; blood disorders (anaemia, haemophilia), rheumatic diseases (arthritic joint and muscular conditions), fertility and gynaecological disorders, skin problems (eczema, acne) as well as improving general physical and psychological well-being.
What does the procedure involve and is it safe?
When practice by Health Professionals trained in Cupping Therapy, the procedure is relatively straight forward and very safe. A mild suction is created using a cup and a pump on the selected treatment area and left for approximately three minutes. The cup is then removed and small superficial skin incisions are made using a cupping scalpel. A second suction is used to carefully draw out a ‘small quantity of blood’.
The BCS strongly recommends treatment should only be sought from Health Professionals.
Is the procedure sterile and are there any side-effects?
Sterile disposable equipment is used at all times with appropriate medical wound management and clinical waste disposal procedures adhered to. The superficial skin incisions usually take a week to ten days to fully heal. Occasionally (depending on patient skin) they may take longer. Some patients may find the skin incisions uncomfortable and may elect to use topical anaesthetic (local anaesthetic on the skin) prior to the treatment to avoid any discomfort.
Excessive suctioning can cause bruising and delayed healing whilst poor wound management and anti-septic procedure can run the risk of skin infection. It is important to always receive treatment from trained health professionals. The BCS has trained dozens of health professionals throughout the world and audits have revealed that no side effects (excessive delayed healing or skin infection) have ever been reported by their graduates whilst following their Internationally Recognised Procedure.
Does the patient need specific preparation prior to treatment such as Fasting, Dieting etc?
There is no need to fast, however avoid heavy meals prior to treatment. Light breakfast is recommended on the day of the treatment. Cupping can be performed on any day of the year. Most people return to normal activity instantly your practitioner will inform you if any precautions need to be taken. Patients are advised to monitor or ask someone at home to monitor the treatment site in case of any problems. Patients are advised to abstain from washing over the treatment area bandage or plaster for forty-eight hours if possible.