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|A patient receiving fire cupping therapy|
Cupping therapy is an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps). It is known in local languages as baguan/baguar, badkesh, banki, bahnkes, bekam, buhang, bentusa, kyukaku, gak hoi, Hijamah, kavaa (ކަވާ), mihceme, and singhi among others.
A partial vacuum is created in cups placed on the skin either by means of heat or suction. According to the American Cancer Society, "[a]vailable scientific evidence does not support cupping as a cure for cancer or any other disease". It can leave temporary bruised painful marks on the skin and there is also a small risk of burns.
There is reason to believe the practice dates from as early as 3000 B.C.; the earliest record of cupping is in the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, describes in 1550 B.C. Egyptians used cupping. Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 B.C. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 B.C.) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. This method in multiple forms spread into medicine throughout Asian and European civilizations.
Broadly speaking there are two types of cupping: dry cupping and bleeding or wet cupping (controlled bleeding) with wet cupping being more common. The British Cupping Society (BCS), an organisation promoting the practice, teaches both. As a general rule, wet cupping provides a more "curative-treatment approach" to patient management whereas dry cupping appeals more to a "therapeutic and relaxation approach". Preference varies with practitioners and cultures.
Dry cupping 
The cupping procedure commonly involves creating a small area of low air pressure next to the skin. However, there is variety in the tools used, the method of creating the low pressure, and the procedures followed during the treatment.
The cups can be various shapes including balls or bells, and may range in size from 1 to 3 inches (25 to 76 mm) across the opening. Plastic and glass are the most common materials used today, replacing the horn, pottery, bronze and bamboo cups used in earlier times. The low air pressure required may be created by heating the cup or the air inside it with an open flame or a bath in hot scented oils, then placing it against the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin slightly inside. More recently, vacuum can be created with a mechanical suction pump acting through a valve located at the top of the cup. Rubber cups are also available that squeeze the air out and adapt to uneven or bony surfaces.
In practice, cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or with many to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. Skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to move across the skin slowly.
Depending on the specific treatment, skin marking is common after the cups are removed. This may be a simple red ring that disappears quickly, the discolouration left by the cups is normally from bruising especially if dragging the cups while suctioned from one place to another to break down muscle fiber. Usually treatments are not painful, but treatment is discontinued if the subject experiences more than minor discomfort.
Fire cupping 
Fire cupping is a treatment where a cotton ball dipped in 50% or greater alcohol is lit and the cotton ball is then introduced inside of the cup for a brief second. The cup is then placed on the patient. As a small vacuum has been created by the cooling of the hot air and gases inside the cup, the skin is drawn up into the cup creating a seal. If oil has been applied, the cups can be moved around the patient's body along the "meridians" and at specific points to allegedly help with immune boosting and other "modalities".
Wet cupping (Al-Hijamah or medicinal bleeding) 
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While the history of wet cupping may date back thousands of years, the first documented uses are found in the teachings of the Islamic prophet Muhammad . According to Muhammad al-Bukhari, Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj Nishapuri and Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Muhammad approved of the Hijama (cupping) treatment.
A number of hadith support its recommendation and use by Muhammad. As a result, the practice of cupping therapy has survived in Muslim countries. Today, wet cupping is a popular remedy practiced in many parts of the Muslim world .
Alternatively, mild suction is created using a cup and a pump (or heat suction) on the selected area and left for about three minutes. The cup is then removed and small superficial skin incisions are made using a cupping scalpel. A second suction is used to carefully draw out a small quantity of blood. The procedure was piloted and developed by Ullah et al 2005 and has been endorsed by the British Cupping Society which aims to promote, protect and develop professional standards in cupping therapy.
In Finland, wet cupping has been done at least since the 15th century, and it is done traditionally in saunas. The cupping cups were made of cow's horns with a valve mechanism in it to create an underpressure on them by sucking the air out. Cupping is still used in Finland as an alternative medicine.
Wet-cupping has been shown to be effective in the nonspecific low back pain. It has also been shown to possibly decrease the frequency of headaches.[unreliable medical source?] Studies have also shown some evidence that it may be effective in the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia.
Traditional Chinese medicine cupping 
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum on the patient's skin to dispel stagnation — stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving qi flow — to treat respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis. Cupping also is used on back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal conditions. Its advocates say it has other applications, as well. Cupping is not advised over skin ulcers or to the abdominal or sacral regions of pregnant women.
Limited bruising cupping massage 
New silicone cupping therapy massage cups are available, an innovation for cupping therapy and its wider acceptance. "Medical silicone" cups are claimed to alleviate deep bruising associated with traditional cupping. The cups allow for added new massage techniques because they are simple to use and are pliable, unlike glass or plastic. It is also highly recommended to drink plenty of water after cupping to help move the blood and other fluids through the area affected, general massage is able to help reduce the blood bruising immediately after the cupping.
Cupping is claimed to treat a broad range of medical conditions such as; blood disorders (anaemia, haemophilia), rheumatic diseases (arthritic joint and muscular conditions), fertility and gynaecological disorders, and skin problems (eczema, acne), and is claimed by proponents to help general physical and psychological well-being.
Only one controlled trial of cupping has been conducted, and it did not demonstrate any effectiveness for pain relief. A recent book by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst claims that no evidence exists of any beneficial effects of cupping for any medical condition.
See also 
- "British Cupping Society". Retrieved 2008.
- Kaya SO, Karatepe M, Tok T, Onem G, Dursunoglu N, Goksin, I (September 2009). "Were pneumothorax and its management known in 15th-century anatolia?". Texas Heart Institute Journal 36 (2): 152–153. PMID 19436812.
- "ACS :: Cupping". 2007-05-23. Retrieved 2007-06-21.
- Cui Jin and Zhang Guangqi, "A survey of thirty years’ clinical application of cupping", Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1989; 9(3): 151–154
- Andrew Rippin and Jan Knappert, Textual Sources for the Study of Islam, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1986; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. 78.
- Sunan Abu Dawood, 11:2097, 28:3848, Sahih Muslim, 26:5467, 10:3830
- Observations of the popularity and religious significance of blood-cupping (al-ḥijāma) as an Islamic medicine, Ahmed El-Wakil, Contemporary Islamic Studies, Vol. 2011, 2
- State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy, Advanced Textbook on Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacology, Volume IV, 1997 New World Press, Beijing
- Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (Revised Edition), Xingnong, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, China, 1987, p370.
- Singh, Simon; Ernst, Edzard (2008). Trick or Treatment. Transworld Publishers. p. 368. ISBN 9780552157629.
Further reading 
- CUPPING by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine, Portland, Oregon
- Cupping Directory
- The efficacy of wet-cupping in the treatment of tension and migraine headache.
- Traditional Cupping Film
- British Cupping Society website
- Cupping online journal