Olympics Cupping Craze

cupping on backThose little bruises on Michael Phelps shoulders stimulated huge interest in cupping therapy. The Olympic cupping craze! Earlier this week I was filmed doing cupping by the magazine Marie Claire.

Many people have questions. Here are the basics.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is an ancient therapy from East Asian which a depressurized a glass or plastic cup is placed on a muscle.  The skin under the cup is lifted up.  The therapy is quite common in Asian communities, as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle east.

What is cupping used for?

Cupping can be used for for muscle pain, arthritis, fatigue, and stress.  You can also use it to help colds, cough, and even acne.[1-3]   It is often used to help recovery from stroke.[4]

Can cupping be done alone or in combination with other therapies?

Yes.  But I most often combine it with acupuncture.

How does cupping work?

In Chinese medicine, cupping is thought to increase the circulation of blood and remove toxins from the body.  Cupping does bring healthy fresh blood to an area and will help to break up trigger points in the muscles. Some cupping techniques have been shown to have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.

Does it hurt?

Cupping is not painful, or hot, but you will fell the pressure and pulling of the cups.

How long is a cupping session?

5-15 minutes depending on what we’re treating.

Is cupping safe?

Yes, cupping is very safe when performed by a trained professional.  Cupping will leave the characteristic bruises. They generally do not hurt, but can look dramatic.


  1. Bisio T. A tooth from the tiger’s mouth : how to treat your injuries with powerful healing secrets of the great Chinese warriors. New York: Simon & Schuster; 2004.
  2. Pan H. Thirty-two cases of acne treated with blood-letting puncture, cupping and Chinese-drug facemask. J Tradit Chin Med.2005;25(4):270-272; PMID: 16447668.
  3. Mehta P, Dhapte V. Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments. J Tradit Complement Med.2015;5(3):127-134; PMID: 26151023.
  4. Zhou Y, Zhou GY, Li SK, et al. [Clinical observation on the therapeutic effect of electroacupuncture combined with cupping on post-stroke fatigue]. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu.2010;35(5):380-383; PMID: 21235068.
Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban is a New York Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Herbalist providing the highest quality Acupuncture and Chinese medicine care tailored to your needs.
Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Latest posts by Joseph Alban, L.Ac. (see all)