Thanks to Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics, cupping has become increasingly popular in the media, and many have asked what exactly it does and how it can be used.
Cupping is a powerful tool that has been used alongside acupuncture throughout history. When a cup is applied, low air pressure (either from a flame or air extractor) creates suction that pulls the fascia and local tissue up and out. This helps release tension and promotes the free flow of qi and blood to the area. This can help move the lymph and increase blood flow and nutrient exchange to facilitate healing and tissue health.
One tenant of Chinese medicine is, when qi and blood are flowing freely, the body is able to self heal. It is when the flow of qi and blood are compromised (whether it be from stagnation due to trauma, a postural issue, a nutritional deficiency, etc.), that the body is unable to function properly resulting in pain or some sort of dis-ease.
Along with acupuncture and herbs, cupping is another tool that can help support the body when flow is interrupted and things feel stuck. It is most commonly used to support lymphatic congestion, back or shoulder pain, but can be used for much more, like facilitating the release of emotional stress held in the body.