Cupping Therapy Methods

Eleven Methods of Cupping Therapy

Like all other forms of medicine, cupping therapy is not a ‘magic cure for all’ but one that needs regular application, as well as the ‘correct’ technique most suitable to the individual patient’s current condition.

• Weak (Light) cupping

• Medium cupping

• Strong cupping

• Moving cupping

• Light-moving cupping (new to this edition)

• Needle cupping

• Moxa (Hot Needle) cupping

• Empty (Flash) cupping

• Full (Bleeding/Wet) cupping

• Herbal cupping

• Water cupping.


Physio Guideline

Weak (Light) Cupping (tonifying method)

Weak cupping is employed when Blood and Qi are sluggish, deficient (Xu) or stagnant, and a reversal of these conditions is desired. The action of Weak cupping is intended to remove stagnation and at the same time tonify the weak Qi and Blood, and is therefore termed a ‘tonifying’ method. The key factor in deciding when to apply Weak cupping is the present energetic state/condition of the patient. Pulse, tongue and visual diagnosis should all point to a deficiency.

The patient and cups are prepared as described earlier, and the skin moistened with oil. Light the cotton wool and wait for a few seconds so that the fire is less intense when introduced into the cup. Remember, the bigger the fire, the greater the suction. Apply the cups at the desired points until all have been used.

At this point the practitioner should take immediate note of the suction inside the cups. The amount of flesh drawn into the cups should be minimal and hardly raised. Should the initial suction be stronger than originally planned, the practitioner should press the edge of the cup with an index finger and let in some air to reduce the strength of the suction to the desired level.

Light cupping can be applied almost anywhere on the body, and may cause a slight reddening of the skin, rather than a deep, dark cupping mark or blister. Therefore the duration of Weak cupping can be as long as 30 minutes. When Light cupping is performed on hairy or very dry skin, the suction is likely to cease much earlier than planned. In this case, apply oil liberally and repeat the procedure.


Medium Cupping (tonifying method)

This is the most frequently used cupping method on patients with relatively stronger energies. Medium cupping can be safely administered to children over 7 years old, as well as to adults. With Medium cupping the suction is firmer, but as the patient’s own energy is also good, it will act as a tonifying method. However, there is a real danger of draining the patient’s Qi if the cups are left on for longer than 30 minutes, leaving the patient lethargic.

To achieve a Medium suction the practitioner needs to use a bigger fire than with the Light method. The cups must also be held closer to the patient, to enable the practitioner to be quick in applying them; the suction will be firmer as the fire draws out the oxygen, thus creating a stronger vacuum. With this method the skin is pulled well into the cup, creating a slight redness as mentioned earlier. If the cups are left on for longer, the redness will turn to dark red or purple, indicating a stronger application. If glass cups are used instead of the more traditional bamboo cups, the progress can be observed closely and early adjustment made if desired.


Strong Cupping (draining method)

This is one of the most draining techniques of all (Moving cupping is the other). Therefore, before deciding on Strong cupping the practitioner must ensure the suitability of the patient. Significant amounts of Blood and Qi are manipulated by this method, sometimes leaving the patient tired. Pulse, tongue and visual diagnosis should all emphasize an Excess,

Full (Shi) condition. Defensive energy (Wei Qi) is most affected and influenced by this method. The purpose of a Strong cupping treatment is to move Blood and Qi and eliminate internal/ external pathogenic factors and stagnation from patients with relatively strong Wei Qi.


Moving Cupping - Tui Guan Fa (draining method)

As mentioned earlier, Moving cupping is the second most draining of all the cupping methods. The object of this treatment technique is to apply Strong cupping therapy to a much larger area of the body by the moving/sliding action of the cup. Like the Strong cupping method, the patient has to possess strong energetic features before Moving cupping is employed, in order to withstand the not-so-gentle pulling and moving action of the cup.


Light-moving Cupping (even method)

For many years I have practised and advocated Moving cupping only to patients with relatively ‘Excessive/Full’ energies or conditions. During recent years, however, I have practised Moving cupping on many patients outside this category with favourable results. This came about when I was treating a female patient with severe arthritic pains in her neck and shoulders. Following acupuncture treatment, 10 minutes of Light cupping was usually applied to the local area.


Needle Cupping (draining method)

(For acupuncture practitioners only)

Needle cupping is mostly used for Re (Hot) types of painful ‘Bi’ Syndrome, i.e. red and painful muscular areas as well as the knee and elbow joints, where there is a need to stop the pain and remove the excess pathogenic heat at the same time.


Moxa (Hot Needle) Cupping - Ai Guan Fa (tonifying method)

(For acupuncture practitioners only)

Moxa (Artemisia vulgaris) is a great warming herb used by many practitioners for removing Cold and tonifying the Yang-Qi and Blood. It usually comes in three forms: the loose type, the smokeless charcoal type and the round, long, cigar- shaped dry type. It is the last type that is used during this treatment. Moxa rolls are divided further according to their strength, i.e. Medium-moxa, Hot-moxa and very Hot-moxa.


 Empty (Flash) Cupping - Shan Guan Fa (tonifying method)

Empty cupping is also called Flash cupping for its speed during the application. This is actually a Medium to Strong cupping method, but is applied rapidly and the cups remain in place for a very short time, i.e. less than 30 seconds. It is used to stimulate and move the Blood and Qi in the weak and frail. The rather short duration is enough to stimulate the Qi and Blood, but not enough to drain. It is therefore a tonifying method, particularly when Cold or Heat is the pathogenic factor in the weak and frail, and in children under the age of 16.


Full (Bleeding/Wet) Cupping - Xue Guan Fa (draining method)

This was the most favoured and practised cupping method of all by the early practitioners, who, particularly in Europe and Middle Eastern countries, employed the Bleeding cupping technique in order to purge foul blood, which was considered the source of disease, from the body. Leeches were also widely used for the same purpose. Today this method is used in the treatment of a sudden increase in blood pressure, high fevers, Blood stasis, and in discharging pus from boils and furuncles, which represents Excess, with Blood-Heat, Blood-poison and Stagnation. Bleeding cupping is also administered to treat a variety of sports injuries.



Herbal Cupping - Yao Guan Fa (tonifying method)

For this method one requires a few bamboo cups, a relatively deep pan, water, metal clamps, some form of fire, and herbs in a prescription based on the treatment. Put the herbs and the  bamboo cups into the deep pan and cover them with water (glass cups become too hot and are therefore not suitable for this method). Bring the water to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Prepare the patient in the normal way, and expose the part to be cupped. When practitioner and patient are both ready, lift one cup at a time out of the pan with a metal clamp. Wait briefly to ensure that the bamboo cup is not too hot or that boiling water is not falling on the patient, then apply the cup in the normal fashion using fire and cotton wool.


Water Cupping - Shui Guan Fa (even method)

The technique involves filling a glass or bamboo cup one-third full with warm water and employing the cupping process in a rather quick fashion. Hold the cup close to the patient with one hand, bring it close to the point to be cupped and insert the burning cotton wool, swiftly and simultaneously turning the cup onto the skin. When performed properly, no water spilalage occurs. If the application is performed slowly some water spillage is inevitable. This should, however, present no problem as the water used is only warm and will cause no harm.


Post a Comment