Cupping Therapy (Hijama)

Cupping Therapy (Hijama)



How is cupping done?

The cups used in a cupping procedure are usually made of glass or plastic. Other types are made of bamboo, iron, or pottery.

There are three types of cupping: “dry,” “air,” and “wet”:

  • In dry cupping, the caregiver soaks a cotton ball or other material in alcohol, lights it, and places it inside the cup to remove the oxygen. The cup is then placed on the patient’s body. Removing the oxygen creates a vacuum, which attaches the cup to the skin.
  • In air cupping, the cup is placed on the skin and a suction device removes the air from the cup to create the vacuum.
  • In wet cupping, the caregiver punctures the skin slightly to draw a small amount of blood, and then places the cup on the patient’s body. The skin is punctured to allow toxins to leave the body.

The cups are placed most often on the back, stomach, arms, and legs. In all of the procedures, the cup pulls the skin upward into a rounded shape.

The cups are left on the skin for several minutes. Several cups can be placed on the skin at the same time, depending on the condition that is being treated.





How does cupping help patients?

The ways in which cupping helps aren’t completely understood. Because there are a lot of blood vessels in the skin, the suction created by cupping causes the capillaries (tiny blood vessels) to dilate (widen) and burst. This is believed to increase blood flow in the area in which the cup is placed.

Another way cupping is thought to help is by opening the pores of the skin to allow the body to release toxins.

In a review of studies on cupping, researchers found that it was more effective than medication in relieving back and neck pain. Other conditions that cupping is said to help include:

  • Respiratory (breathing) problems, such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion
  • Arthritis
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Swelling
  • Headaches
  • Herpes zoster
  • Musculoskeletal pain
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Infertility


What are the side effects of cupping?

The placement of cups on the skin can cause the following side effects:

  • Bruises (this is the most visible effect)
  • Soreness/discomfort
  • Burns (caused by hot cups)
  • Skin infections

Certain patients should not have a cupping procedure, including people who have:

  • Underlying health conditions
  • Inflamed skin
  • A high fever or convulsions

Pregnant women and people who bleed easily should also avoid cupping.

Researchers stress that conventional treatment should be used first for any condition, and that cupping is intended as a “complementary” or “alternative” treatment. Further study is needed to determine how cupping actually benefits patients.