Fire Cupping: Everything You Need to Know About this Holistic Practice (From a TCM Doctor)

Fire cupping seems like all the rage on social media, and it’s met with mixed reactions. Some sing its praises while others balk at the sight red-ringed, singed skin, scratching their heads and wondering, what is fire cupping?

If you’re in the camp that’s curious about how fire cupping (or cupping) works and trying to understand where it fits in the complex puzzle of wellness trends, we’ve got you.

Read on to find all your burning questions answered by a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctor.

What is Fire Cupping?

Fire Cupping is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine where heat is added to a glass cup causing a vacuum effect when applied to the skin. The cups may be placed on the body and left in one spot for an amount of time or moved around on the skin in a gliding motion.

By creating this vacuum effect, the cups drain or pull toxins out of the body and allows the blood to flow, breaking up stagnation and congestion.

There are other forms of cupping as well, but this article focuses on fire cupping specifically.

How Does Fire Cupping Work and What Are the Main Benefits?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, disease is caused by stagnation of blood and energy or “Qi” in the body.

Allowing the flow of energy along the meridians keeps your body in a state of homeostasis and balance. Your body can function at its peak performance when it’s cleansed of pain and toxins.

Want to know more about Qi? Learn all about Qi, Meridians, Yin & Yang: An In-Depth Look at Acupuncture

By placing the cups directly above any organ that is out of balance, the suction will begin to remove toxins from your body.

For example, if there is edema associated with the kidneys, the kidneys are working overtime and retaining water in the body which can increase the heart rate and blood pressure.

Ridding toxins from the kidneys can help them function properly while also reducing blood pressure, causing less stress on your heart.

Cupping is also extremely effective in relieving tension in your muscles. In fact, it’s commonly noted that cupping has a similar effect to that of a deep tissue massage. The treatment is highly effective to help with range of motion in the back, neck, and shoulders.

Many athletes incorporate cupping into their wellness routine to keep their muscles loose and help with recovery from training, such as Michael Phelps. His cupping marks in the 2016 Rio games put a spotlight on cupping due to the marks it leaves for a few days after treatment.


Photo Credit: Imagine A Moment Photography


Does Fire Cupping Hurt?

No, there is no pain associated with fire cupping. In fact, it can actually put you in a peaceful, almost meditative state. After the treatment it’s normal to see rings of bruises on your skin, although it won’t feel bruised.

The marks will go away within a few days to a week, but the healing effects will remain for much longer than the marks.

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Where Can You Receive a Cupping Treatment?

Many bodywork professionals are starting to include cupping into their treatments. As it is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most Acupuncture clinics offer fire cupping.

Likewise, massage therapists and some physical therapists may also offer it as well. Ask your provider and start feeling the benefits of this traditional form of healing.

Fire Cupping: The Takeaway

Fire Cupping is a tried and true aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been used for thousands of years. As a natural way to increase blood flow, release tension and promote general wellness in your body, it’s a great technique to add to your holistic health and self-care routine.

Have you tried fire cupping? Curious about trying it for yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below – we love hearing from you!

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Jordan New

Jordan New L.Ac. is a licensed Acupuncturist based in Denver, Colorado. Jordan began his career over 10 years ago as a Yoga and Qi Gong instructor before earning his Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Jordan offers Traditional Chinese Medicine and plant-based nutrition out of his New Vibes Health & Acupuncture practice.


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