Hot cupping, also known as fire cupping or dry cupping, is a traditional Chinese medical technique that involves placing heated cups on the skin to create suction. This suction is thought to promote the flow of blood, lymphatic fluid, and energy (known as qi) to the affected area, which may help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being.

During the procedure, the cups are typically heated using an open flame or a specialized heating device, and then quickly placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum effect that pulls the skin and underlying tissue into the cup. The cups may be left in place for several minutes, or moved around the skin to target specific areas.

Hot cupping is often used to treat conditions such as muscle tension, back pain, respiratory issues, and digestive problems. However, it should only be performed by a trained practitioner and is not recommended for everyone, particularly people with certain skin conditions, a history of blood clots, or who are taking blood-thinning medications.

What should I expect during a cupping treatment?

Cupping is sometimes performed with acupuncture treatments. For best results, you may also want to fast or eat only light meals 2 to 3 hours before your cupping session. During a cupping treatment, you can expect the following: Your practitioner will ask you what symptoms you’ve been experiencing, likely taking a detailed health History if this is your first time visiting them. The practitioner will place cups on your skin. You’ll feel a sucking sensation and pressure as the cups are suctioned. The practitioner may use heat or suction alone to place the cups. Depending on the type of cupping, the practitioner may leave you to rest for a few minutes before they return to remove the cups. Your skin may turn red and show light bruising after your session.

Where will my practitioner place the cups?

Cups are most often applied to the: Back | Chest | Abdomen | Buttocks | Legs Generally, the back is the most common area for cups to be used. If you’re receiving facial or cosmetic cupping, cups will be placed on your face.

How does the suction part work?

The cup is often heated with fire using alcohol, herbs, or paper that’s placed directly into the cup. The fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed with the open side directly onto your skin. When the hot cup is placed onto your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle up into the cup. Your skin may turn red as the blood vessels respond to the change in pressure. Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus more traditional heat methods.

Any discoloration or marks from cupping usually go away within 7 days of the session.

How long will my session last?

With dry cupping, the cup is kept in place for a set time, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. With wet/bleeding cupping, the practitioner makes a small incision to draw blood before intentionally pulling stagnant blood out of the incision with the suction of the cup. Running cupping usually involves the application of oil before the use of suction. Then the cups are slowly moved around the area, creating a massage-like effect. Depending on the kind of service you’re receiving, your session could last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour or more. When it comes to flash cupping, the cups are quickly suctioned and then released, usually in the same generalized area of the body. This is usually a 5 to 10 minute process as well.

What conditions can cupping treat?

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains. Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.