What Types of Cupping Are There?

To explore the different types of cupping, one must consider the different methods in which cups are applied and how they are used once attached.

What are the different methods of cupping therapy?

In cupping therapy there are three methods commonly used by cupping therapists:

  • Fire cupping
  • Pump cups
  • Rubber (silicone) cups

Cups can be applied with the use of heat, known as fire cupping. In this method, a flame is introduced to the empty space of the cup to consume the oxygen. The cup is then quickly applied to the body creating a vacuum.

That’s a great picture!

Some cups use a pump that sucks the air out of the cup after it is placed on the skin. This allows for more precise control over the amount of suction.

A more modern invention is rubber cups. These are first squeezed to remove the empty space and then applied to the body.

The advantage of this lies in the flexibility of the edges. This allows the application of cups to bony and irregular areas.

You can watch this video to get an idea of how fire cupping is applied

What are the different ways cupping is performed?

There are different ways that cupping may be used, including dry and wet cupping, depending on your presenting condition.

Fixed cupping

As the name suggests, this involves cups which are fixed to the body and left to rest for a period of time. They may be applied as suction cups, pump cups or fire cups. They are not moved during treatment, focusing their release on the local tissue.

This concentration is on a specific location, allowing time for the connective tissue to fully stretch. Localised pain and tension is the most common indication for this method.

The strength of these cups can vary depending on the presentation.

Weak cups

In general, the weaker someone’s energy is systemically, the lighter the cupping pressure. Fewer cups will be used and they will be retained for a shorter period of time.

This type of cupping is most suited for the debilitated, elderly and young children.

This technique is utilised to lightly move the blood and fluids for gentle revitalisation. It does not tend to reduce a lot of congestion or stasis in the surrounding tissue.

Medium cups

This level of cupping is more appropriate for people with more strength.

It may be used for a short period of time to remove local congestion in weaker patients or to encourage circulation in those with more vitality.

If cups are left on for too long they may start to drain one’s energy.

Strong cups

Strong cupping pressure should only be used on those with a high level of energy.

These techniques can be draining and cups should not be retained for an extended period of time.

This level of cupping will often be used when there is some chronic localised stasis in the surrounding tissue

Sliding cupping

This is a fairly strong technique where cups are attached to the body and then slid across an area. It is useful to release congestion in a broader area of the body.

Massage oil is first applied to allow for frictionless movement of the cup. Cups are then affixed with medium strength and moved through the treatment area.

Flash cupping

Flash cupping involves the quick repeated application of cups, with minimal retention.

This is a method to reduce local congestion and stimulate circulation over a broader area, without being overly strong.

Hijama and wet cupping

When cups are applied after a piercing of the skin, this is known as wet cupping.

This is known as hijama cupping in middle eastern cultures. Especially in the days leading up to the full moon, people seek hijama in Melbourne and around the world as a preventative health measure.

The piercing removes static blood and toxins from the body. The suction of the cups speeds up this process.

To help you learn more, I have written a guide about what is cupping.

What cupping is best for me?

The style of cupping massage that suits you best will vary depending on your presenting issues as well as underlying constitutional energy. An experienced practitioner can provide an appropriate diagnosis and select the correct style of cupping for your needs.

At Dantian Health I offer cupping in Melbourne‘s northern suburb of Brunswick.

What else would you like to know?

Thanks for reading this far. Have I missed your question? Was something unclear? Let me know in the comments below, I read and respond to every one!

Photo of author

Dr Jason Chong (Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbal Medicine Practitioner)

Acupuncturist. Herbalist. Educator.

Jason is the owner and principal practitioner at Dantian Health. A nationally registered Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, qualified shiatsu and tuina therapist and the director and educator in Shiatsu and Oriental Medicine at the Australian Shiatsu College.

Jason's qualifications include:

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