What is Cupping Therapy?

The Basics of Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is form of alternative medicine, like acupuncture, in which suction is created on targeted areas of the skin using medical grade plastic cups. Acupuncture and Acupressure Center was the first to introduce cupping therapy in Memphis and has continued to administer it with excellent results.

Elite athletes like Michael Phelps have put cupping therapy in headlines across the country, and for good reason. Cupping is used in over 60 countries to treat a broad spectrum of conditions such as headaches, musculoskeletal pain, digestive problems, and infertility.

Dr. William Osler, considered the Father of Modern Medicine and one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, recommended cupping beginning in the early 1900’s, though it has been practiced for nearly 5,000 years.

Examples of the types of cups used at AAC for cupping therapy.

Examples of the types of cups used at AAC for cupping therapy.

Cupping therapy process

In the cupping therapy process, a hand-powered vacuum pump is used to create the suction that attaches clear cups to targeted areas of the skin.

While fire and flammable liquids were used in the past, this modern technique provides the practitioner greater control when placing the cups and allows more precise monitoring of the skin during treatment.

Cups are left on the skin for approximately 20-30 minutes before they are removed.

What does cupping therapy feel like?

A vast majority of patients, even our first time patients, tolerate cupping therapy very well.

In both dry and wet cupping, you'll feel some pressure in the treatment areas as the cups are administered.

Afterwards, you'll may see dark red marks on your skin, but do not be alarmed. The vacuum formed by cupping draws up old, stagnant blood from treatment areas, bringing them up to the surface so that free circulation can be restored.

As such, you may see round marks that look similar to bruising for a few days, but sometimes longer. These marks are natural and will go away.

What can cupping therapy treat?

Here are just a few of the conditions that cupping that help treat:

Pain Relief

Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that cupping was effective in reducing lower back pain when compared to other treatment options, treating cancer pain when compared to analgesics, and addressing pain related to respiratory conditions. (1)

Skin Disorders

Cupping therapy is commonly used to treat herpes, cellulite, and acne. An analysis of six studies showed that for improving acne, wet cupping was more effective than the use of prescription antibiotics such as tetracycline and ketoconazole prescriptions. (2)

Respiratory Disorders

Cupping therapy can help speed up recovery from respiratory conditions like the asthma or common colds. Treating pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the first purposes of cupping and was practiced millenia before prescription pharmaceuticals were available. (3)

Digestive Problems

Cupping therapy has been used to improve digestion and reduce symptoms from conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) because it can lower a patient’s stress response, which is highly tied to healthy digestive functioning. (4)

Headaches (Migraines)

In a study of 70 patients suffering from tension and migraine headaches, the application of wet cupping improved 95 percent of the cases reducing the severity of the headaches by an average of 66 percent, and the patients experienced the equivalent of 12.6 fewer days of headache per month. (5)


I feel so much better and wish I had come to see Barry earlier!
— P.R.