Historically, many cultures have embraced and utilised cupping for the preservation of health and reinstating well being for at least the last three millennia. Both the Egyptians, Chinese and Greeks used cups of various materials & placed them on strategic areas of the body whilst creating a lower air pressure within the cup. In doing so, the skin covered by the open end of the cup would react by drawing up into the cup and a vacuum of sorts created. The main method used to creat a relative lower air pressure within the cup is by heating the air within. Thus, one of the main methods used and still used today by acupuncturists and body workers world wide is with fire.
The term Fire Cupping relates to using a cotton wool bud and soaking it in alcohol. Once the bud is soaked it is then lit on fire and the fire is ‘flashed’ inside the glass cup burning up the oxygen within the cup which is then placed directly on the skin (i.e. patients back). In doing so, a vacuum is created and the skin is drawn up into the cup causing increased micro-circulation to the region, the rupturing of tiny sub-dermal capillaries takes palce , and a stretch and release action on the fascial plane occurs. This results in the release of facial and muscular adhesions/restrictions at the site of application as well as an increase in blood and lymph circulation.
From an acupuncture perspective, Fire Cupping can be applied in a static manner where the cup is left in one place for a duration of time (i.e. 10 minutes) and then released. Or it may be applied in a sliding manner, for example the practitioner may move the cup with his/her hand tracing the trajectory of the para spinal muscles. Both manners are equally valid and tend to be administered as therapeutically needed.
In the Clinic
In the modern day clinical setting the material used to make the cup has moved away from pottery, bamboo and horn to a more ‘health regulation friendly’ plastic, glass and rubber. Fire Cupping as described above is still widely used by acupuncturists world wide and in my own personal practice. As well as the more recent plastic/glass cups that have a valve at the top which allows a hand pump to be attached and suction created without fire. I find both of these methods very effective and utilise both in my acupuncture practice.