Chinese Fire Cupping: What is it? What does it do?

I get asked this question a lot “What in the world is Chinese Fire Cupping?”  Does it not surprise you that we are so behind on the times?

So to give you a quick background on what Cupping Therapy really is. This modality has been around for nearly 5000 years. The Chinese started this healing technique to help alleviate pain in the body. Back before current times they use-to-use bamboo cups to be able to create the suction on the body. Cupping therapy is considered a form of TCM Traditional Chinese Medicine.  But since new technology and the invention of Glass and Pump up cups, the technique and where the cups are placed have not changed.

Though this technique is still relativity new to the Western Civilization, it has been preformed for thousands of years. Growing in popularity to get ease back pain, cupping therapy does come its scrutiny. By leaving circle marks on the body that resemble bruises. They are not bruises but “hickeys that are left on the skin due to the suction. These marks usually go away between 3 days up to 2 weeks to completely dissipate.

These hickey marks that look horrible are not. They usually do not cause any discomfort at all you forget that you even have them on your body. Sometimes it may can be a little sore, but like workout soreness. This usually goes away in a couple of days.  We are starting to see these marks on Athletes and Famous Actors.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy:

Since the techniques use negative pressure, rather than tissue compression, superior bodywork ranging from MFR and deep tissue work to MLD is easily accomplished. The suction of the cups rapidly facilitates rigid soft tissue release by stretching it up from underlying structures, thus loosening areas of adhesion or restriction, activating muscle spindle reflexes that relax contractile tissue and retraining the myofacial structures. Further, it stimulates the nervous system reflex to the cerebral cortex, contributing to an increased rate of recovery from pain and disease.

The effects are remarkable on hypertonicity and aching muscles and activate the secretion of synovial fluids, which release joint stiffness in ways not possible using the pressure of traditional massage. It concurrently creates localized expansion of tissue, producing a profound vasodilatation reaction – drawing blood flow to areas of ischemic pain, raising skin temperature, promoting metabolism within the skin tissue for better functioning of sweat and sebaceous glands, flushing capillary beds, draining stagnant blood, toxins and lymph, and re-supplying vital nutrients.

Its use in beauty therapy is based around promoting hormone production, encouraging blood and the secretion of digestive fluids and increased peristaltic movements in the bowels and internal organs, thus removing harmful toxins that speed up the aging process and other degenerative conditions. Another effective application of the cupping technique is in the treatment of cellulite. A very light suction provides drainage, while heavier application can be used to stimulate circulation and loosen adhesions or “dimpling.” The thighs and hip region should be cupped prior to a wrapping procedure to enhance the absorption of topical products. Another application of Negative Pressure Massage include an extraordinary face lift and drainage treatment and the addition of new equipment that include negative and positive polarity magnet make Biomagnetic Therapy potential tremendous.

Things that respond good to cupping therapy:


Anxiety & Insomnia

Post-injury trauma

Post-surgery adhesions


Intercostal Neuralgia


Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Multiple Sclerosis


Muscular-skeletal problems: pain, spasms, cramps, tightness, numbness

Menopausal discomfort


Activates the skin, clears stretch marks and wrinkles and improves varicose veins

Here is a great research article on Cupping:

An Updated Review of the Efficacy of Cupping Therapy


This modality is showing such a great promise to help with all sorts of muscular-skeletal pains and nerve pains. By the only downside to this is having the hickey marks on your body. We have learned that people really do not care about having the marks, because of the benefit that you receive from cupping and being in no or less pain. Cupping is another great way to open up nerve pathways, promote circulation to bring more blood and nutrients to the muscles and stagnant areas, while also doing a myofascial release.

We have clients and patients that have decided to try this. Once they have experienced what cupping can do and how they feel. They honestly prefer to get cupping instead of a regular massage based on how they feel and less pain.

Heath Henderson, MS, NMT, LMT