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Pros & Cons of Cupping Therapy & Why You Should Try It

Understanding the pros and cons of cupping therapy is essential in deciding if the practice will benefit you.

Image via Burst

Cupping looks strange, even painful. Because of this, it's something of a controversial alternative practice, despite the fact that it isn't dangerous. Cupping is a form of traditional Chinese medicine used to relieve pain and a variety of other maladies, and the patient shouldn't feel any pain. Should you decide to experiment with cupping, you needn't worry that the suction will cause you any distress.

That being said, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with a practice that's new to you, including one that's been around for millennia. It isn't enough to learn about the benefits, although there are many. For the sake of safety and choosing the best medicine for yourself, you also need to research any possible disadvantages associated with the practice. Understanding the pros and cons of cupping can help you make an educated decision before heading for treatment.

Pro: Versatile Applications

Image via Burst

Before you learn about what cupping therapy can take care of, you should first understand how it works. Cupping is all about the suction created between the cup and the skin. Originally, practitioners placed something flammable, such as a candle, burning suet, or something similar, directly in the glass cup, set it on fire, and let it burn for a bit. After extinguishing the flame and letting the cup reach a comfortable temperature—warm but not hot—the cup was carefully applied to the skin of the patient. As the air cooled, it created the vacuum necessary to kick-start the suction.

Some folks still use this authentic method. Others rely on modern pumps that create a vacuum seal between the cup and the skin. The cup itself has seen an update, as well. These days, cups can also be made out of silicone, plastic, earthenware, or even bamboo.

Pro: Pain Relief

Pain relief is easily one of the most positive effects of cupping, not in the least because soothing pain is its primary purpose. The way the cup stretches out the skin's tissues tends to reduce pain and ease aches and stiffness. Similar to exploring acupuncture for pain relief, people who have chronic pain may consider cupping therapy as an alternative treatment.

Con: Wet cupping can cause infections.

In discussing the pros and cons of cupping, you'll find that the pros outweigh the cons, but that doesn't mean that there are no disadvantages. The wet cup method has potential problems, for instance. Wet cupping is pretty much the same as regular cupping, but after the first application of suction, the practitioner removes the cup and creates a series of small, very light cuts to the skin previously covered by the cup. Most practitioners use a scalpel. After placing the cuts, the cup goes on again for a second bout of suction, which draws out a little bit of blood. The practice itself is perfectly safe. The only real con associated with wet cupping is the danger of infection, which only occurs if you don't choose a reputable therapist who uses clean, disinfected equipment, or if you don't monitor and clean the cuts afterward.

Pro: Treating Diseases

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A quick search of the pros and cons of cupping therapy reveals its ability to treat myriad diseases and health problems. From Herpes zoster to facial paralysis, acne, and even cervical spondylosis, cupping can effectively treat these problems mostly because the practice can increase blood flow to or around the affected areas. Due to that fact, it's also helpful in treating certain blood disorders, including hemophilia and anemia. People who have rheumatoid arthritis may benefit, and it can relieve fibromyalgia pain as well. There are claims that it can help with varicose veins, along with high blood pressure.

Pro: Dealing with Migraine

You can't look into cupping therapy without discovering how much it benefits problems that are otherwise difficult to treat. Migraines, for example, are notoriously hard to cure. Not everyone reacts well to the medications that are traditionally prescribed for the problem. Often, they simply have to wait for the blinding, debilitating pain to pass. Cupping therapy, however, is a great natural remedy for migraines. It's a less invasive alternative to medications that can cause fatigue and lethargy.

Con: Potential Pain and Bruising

Not all of the pros and cons of cupping therapy apply to everyone. The majority of people who try it won't experience any pain from the cup, particularly with cups applied through a suction pump. There's a chance of experiencing a burn or burning sensation from cups applied using the traditional method. Almost everyone who tries cupping therapy will have lingering bruises from the cup. They may or may not be painful depending on the individual.

Pro: Stress Relief

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Cupping therapy is an excellent way to relieve stress and tension. Specifically, people who have general anxiety disorders or social anxiety can benefit from this type of therapy. The way that it improves blood flow can soothe frayed nerves, especially following regular sessions.

Pro: Curing the Common Cold

If you find yourself coming down with a cold or experiencing chest congestion, then a round or two of cupping might help more than any over-the-counter cold medicines. The practice has been around so long that there has been ample time to study the pros and cons of cupping therapy. The way it benefits a variety of respiratory problems is well-documented. Even people with asthma have luck with it.

Con: Super Regularity

This isn't actually a con, but it's something to watch out for if you turn to cupping because of issues with digestion. Cupping can treat constipation and improve a lagging appetite; from there, it even boosts the metabolism. It pays to be careful, however. Because of the way it eliminates toxins from the body, that coupled with its ability to deal with constipation may lead to tummy troubles—i.e., diarrhea—after the first few sessions.

Understanding the Pros and Cons of Cupping Therapy

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All of these pros and cons are subjective, in that there's no guarantee that an individual patient will experience all or any of them. A friend may recommend cupping because she or he had an excellent session, but that doesn't mean that it will go the same way for you. Don't go in expecting to have any negative side-effects. That's true for almost anything. Altogether, the art of cupping comes with far more advantages than potential side-effects. It helps more than it harms. 

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