Is cupping dangerous or painful?

Cupping is one of many practices within acupuncture that aim to achieve the same therapeutic goals, but by different means. In this practice cups are used to generate suction over specific acupoints which would normally be targeted by needles. Suction is generated either by the use of heat and the resulting temperature difference to create a vacuum, or by using a vacuum pump to draw air out of a cup placed atop an acupoint.

Regardless of the method, cupping quickly draws blood into the target area, improving the general circulation and, purportedly helping the treatment of a variety of different medical conditions. Cupping is also the subject of some concerns, particularly with regards to pain and safety, and in this article we look at both of these issues.

Why do people think cupping can be dangerous?

Cupping has attracted a lot of negative attention because the treatment can leave tell-tale marks that last about a week. These are round, blue-black circles that form where cups were previously placed. As multiple acupoints are targeted through the treatment, patients can often have quite a number of these marks, and more recently their presence on a number of celebrities has attracted attention.

It is these visible marks of the treatment which have attracted public attention and concerns, but the question is, of course, are these treatments dangerous or painful?

Is cupping dangerous or painful?

Cupping may seem painful because of the dark marks the treatment leaves behind, but people who go through the treatment report that the process is not painful at all. Most patients will experience a sucking sensation, but no pain is involved when the treatment is performed correctly.

The formation of these marks is not, in itself, the sign of any danger or safety concerns. They are simply formed as circulation is improved in the area targeted by the cupping treatment. As blood rushes into these areas cupping marks, which look like round bruises, will form, although they usually fade within a week.

Fortunately cupping is neither dangerous nor painful according to the many people applying and making use of the treatment. Whether the method is effective at treating illness and remedying pain is another story however, and there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the topic of whether or not treatment should be sought.

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