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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Cupping



Cupping (拔罐) refers to a specific type of Chinese massage, which consists of traditional chinese medicine (TCM) physicians placing several glass "cups" (more like open spheres) on the body.

Traditional Chinese Medicine cupping works on your body's meridian system, to open any  potential stagnant/stagnating/blocked points for a better flow of Qi. This will also help to  rejuvenate specific meridians and organs that have/are not functioning at their maximum/best potential.

Scientifically, cupping TCM techniques are known moreso to activate our body's lymphatic system, improving blood circulation and internal system/tissue repair.

fire versus pump cuppings

The traditional approach to cupping is the "fire cupping" style, where the TCM physician will light a fire source, place it inside the cup and then removing the fire source before placing the cup against open skin.

Not to worry, it's not hot - it works with pressure.

You see, as the air inside the cup is heated, the air inside is heated and it increases with kinetic energy and expands; so when the TCM physician places it on the skin, it cools and that lowers the pressure inside the cup that causes the cup to "suck" the skin and the cup then sticks to the skin.

The Modern Approach

The modern and a little safer approach is to use the pump version (with a pump mechanism) to cause the suction.

The suction created with a suction pump is/tends to be:

  • more consistent in pressure
  • more even in pressure
  • more controlled
  • close to zero heat

BUT retains all the health benefits of traditional chinese medicine cupping therapy.

Sometimes, the TCM physician may also place massage oil on the skin, and this allows the cups (in-suction) to be moved around the back/skin. This is a reverse-pressure massage, and known as "zhou-gwan" (走罐).

Zhou-gwan in English is glide-cupping or gliding-cupping), which serves one main purpose:

to restart the Qi (inner, bodily energy) within the patient

The health benefits of restarting of Qi

  1. increases one's internal energy levels and flow
  2. increasing mental alertness
  3. increases mental focus
  4. increases physical and mental strength
  5. increasing immunity naturally

How many cupping sessions would I need?

The number and frequency of traditional chinese medicine cupping sessions changes/varies from patients to patients, based on:

  • their age
  • severity of their medical/health conditions
  • how their body respond to the treatments

In some patients, they may feel a lot of relief even from the first session (or first few); others may only experience the benefits after 6-12 sessions or more.

Generally, someone who has had a health condition for years will need 2-3 treatments a week for the first 4 weeks, and then gradually reduce to once per week.



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