Chinese Medicine - Cupping Therapy

There’s a saying in Judo: If you don’t practice Judo while injured, then you don’t practice Judo. The same phrase could probably be applied to anyone who is serious enough to be worthy of donning the title “olympic hopeful.”

Welcome to the world of alternative medicine used by athletes.

If you tuned into the recent Olympics, particularly the swimming events, you may have noticed athletes with these crop circle-like bruises adorning various areas of their shoulders. The most notable instance was Michael Phelps’ shoulders which looked like time-worn polkadots.

Phelps getting the hand-pumped version
From Ancient China

What you’re witnessing are the after-effects of a traditional Chinese healing method known as bá guàn, or as it’s more popularly known: Cupping Therapy. 

Remember when you were a kid and you placed a cup around your mouth and chin, and got it to stay there by sucking hard with your mouth? Ever have a friend who did it too long and ended up with a purple-skinned goatee? That’s essentially what they’re doing with this technique.

The Method

In the actual technique, they place special jars or cups which can be made from glass, earthenware, silicone, or even plastic. Typically, they burn some alcohol soaked cotton to heat the air inside, which creates a vacuum in the container as the air cools. This pulls the skin away from the muscle and is said to help speed the healing process by pulling blood to the area. Don’t worry, they only put it on for a few minutes. That’s dry cupping, by the way.

Ever wanted to use water and tiny cuts to suck out toxins from your bloodstream? You’re in luck: they have the wet method of cupping where they leave the cup with hot water on your skin to cool, again creating a vacuum on your skin. In this method, a scalpel is applied to make tiny cuts on your skin and move the cup around on them in hopes of sucking out bad energy/chemicals. An alternative option is to use acupuncture needles to pierce the skin and get all those ugly buzzwords out. Afterward, they will give you an alcohol wipe-down to stop anything nasty getting back in.

Some of Phelp's Cupping Bruises
The argument I keep hearing is “they are used it in the olympics, so it must be legitimate.” If you’ve convinced by this argument, you should reconsider.

The Science

Sorry to break it to you, True Believers, but there is no legitimate science supporting the claims of this research. Rupturing blood vessels and the resulting internal bleeding (aka creating more damage) don’t seem like the best way to heal something else. In terms of the water method, there is no evidence that sucking poison through your skin is any more effective than letting your liver do what its designed to do. If anything, this seems like you might be opening the door to invite in the very thing you were trying to push out.

To be fair, there isn’t actually much research based around this subject. I found one meta-analysis - a fancy word for looking at the existing research - of 135 studies on the subject. It found that cupping might be effective when used alongside other treatments (e.g. acupuncture, medications) for the following ailments:

  • Shingles (aka Herpes Zoster)
  • Facial Paralysis
  • Cervical Spondylosis (aka Arthritis of the spine)
  • Acne
Bear in mind that the researchers of this meta-analysis also noted that “the studies were generally of low methodological quality.” In other words, they were badly designed and their conclusions likely can’t be trusted

Bruising can range from moderate...
Despite the above, I’m constantly told that it works, with some friends saying that it's one of those thing “that science can’t prove, but it works.” That’s… not how science works. In other words, this is probably the placebo effect.

Quick Point on Placebos

When people hear “placebo effect” they either think that it means there is no effect. Let’s be clear: The placebo effect is a legitimate, real effect that will give some medicinal aid to those who believe they’re receiving treatment. The difference, however, is that receiving treatment - even treatment that does nothing - makes your body react in a beneficial way. 

Take pills, for example. If you give one person the experimental medicine, another a sugar pill, and another nothing, you can easily see the weight of the placebo. It's the difference between the sugar pill (the "control") and the possible medicine will be the actual effect of the medicine, while the sugar pill effect minus the non-treatment will be the size of the placebo. In cupping's case, you have no control group. If we mimic the suction of the cupping treatment, that is basically the same as the cupping itself.

Bottom line: if you believe it helps, then it does. The main thing is off-setting the potential risks of a bunk treatment. And on that note…

Potential Side-Effects of Cupping

WebMD says:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Burns
  • Skin Infection
  • Bruises heavy, and even to extreme (graphic photo at the bottom)
That last one is not so much a potential side-effect as a guaranteed one. Trust me, you can see them everywhere in Beijing.

Should You Try Cupping?

Sure, try it. But I’d only suggest the dry, non-acupuncture/scalpel one. It seems the downside to this treatment is mainly related to the methods that cut you. I think that’s convincing enough. Otherwise, it’s said to be quite safe with medical professionals, and the downside is negligible. BUT, even if you approach this in the safest way possible, there are risks. I’ve included a rather graphic photo at the bottom of how bad it can get if the treatment goes wrong. If you want to read more, check out the Wikipedia Article.

As for me, I’d rather just stick with massages.

Now here's some spacing to keep away the faint of heart from those who actually want to see gross pictures.


Apparently this person had something that went wrong, burning the full thickness of the skin. That's right, straight-up necrosis setting in. I can't get the image out of my head.


  1. This can only truly emerge when bias, self-interest, greed and discrimination is discarded and diverse medical knowledge is promoted and shared, not only between university trained scientists and medical doctors, but amongst alternative practitioners, philosophers, metaphysicians, and other intelligentsia of society as well. Drostanolon Enanthat

  2. Your blog provided us with valuable information to work with. Each & every tips of your post are awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing. Keep blogging

  3. A few men could likewise validate that the pills have helped their confidence and that they're progressively sure with their body when taking the pills.

  4. the event that you need to almost certainly observe what the genuine article resembles, at that point this is unquestionably the brand that you have to attempt. oxidative stress healthpally doctors

  5. You finished a couple fine focuses there. I did an inquiry on the subject and discovered almost all persons will oblige with your online journal. ayurveda and humor

  6. Furthermore, having deficient qualities doesn't mean an influenced individual will get sick. comprar cytotec

  7. Drug abuse and drug addiction; exactly what does that mean and who is affected by it? There is a confusion between drug addiction and abuse. Drug abuse happens when there is usage of a substance, generally illicit drugs or alcohol, while drug addiction takes place in a broad variety of substances and activities. what is the best rehab center for alcoholism

  8. Though you can use oil-based paint on exterior wood, water-based acrylic paint offers greater advantages. Learn the limitations of oil-based paint, or you could end up with a cracking finish that loses its luster after a short time. CBD store

  9. Replenish 360 offers one of the most affordable wellness and preventative services that are personalized and one of the most activating one-of-a-kind IV drip and infusions, vitamin and antioxidant supplementation, micronutrient therapy, and other additional supplementary wellness services to “renew your body, refresh your mind, and restore performance.” IV Therapy Palm Springs

  10. Measuring is a treatment applied regularly in conventional Chinese medication and it has been all around acknowledged and is very notable. Conventional Chinese medication stands apart as the principle treatment structure that uncovered the measuring to the whole world. NY acupuncture

  11. Health cover is not about just getting an extra expense, but it is for your own good in covering you in medical expenses. It is also useful in providing security in the event of loss of income when you are not well.
    acupuncture commack NY

  12. I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! suc khoe

  13. I wanted to thank you for this great read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post. Internal medicine Katy TX

  14. Before shopping a coverage, you ought to evaluate the settlement language and ensure that it gives you the perfect degree of earnings protection.disability news stories

  15. Pests are valuable as well as a revile to humankind. Creatures, microorganisms and a few bugs are useful to individuals in numerous ways, however similar time they can likewise be pests.No More Pest

  16. A drug organization is only scientists, as a matter of fact. A drug organization after it begins creating a gain from the drugs they delivered in any case needs to financial plan for an extremely durable exploration group to make future drug benefits.
    buy cocaine online sydney