Fire cupping, also known as cupping therapy, is a treatment technique that places glass, bamboo, or plastic jars on the skin to enhance circulation, relieve pain, and extract toxins from the body. You may be familiar with fire cupping, or at the very least have heard of it, if you watched the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Why? Because American athletes like Michael Phelps and Alex Naddour could be seen sporting circular red marks on their backs, shoulders, and arms during the event. This sparked a media frenzy around what may have caused these marks,
which has since led to an increase in inquiries/interest for cupping therapy. As such, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to write a blog about fire cupping and why everyone should try it at least once in their lives!
Fire cupping is an alternative, non-invasive treatment technique that uses special cups placed on the skin to encourage blood flow to damaged areas. This unique therapy is often recommended to patients who suffer from muscular pain, joint pain, skin problems, and/or respiratory disorders.
During treatment, a physical therapist puts a flammable substance inside of a glass or silicone cup before lighting it on fire. The physical therapist allows the fire to go out before placing it on the skin. The cup is left on the skin for up to three minutes, creating a suction that causes your skin to rise and redden within the cup. This process causes your blood vessels to expand, encouraging blood flow and increased circulation to the damaged area(s).
While fire cupping may be recommended to patients with specific musculoskeletal conditions, it is ideal for any patient who wishes to heal his or her soft tissue injuries and reduce overall pain and inflammation. The team at OSR Physical Therapy practices complete safety and sanitation when performing this treatment. Moreover, our team performs the most effective, common, and proven method of fire cupping.
That said, there are other types of fire cupping that patients may be less familiar with. For example, some versions of cupping use rubber pumps instead of fire to create suction, and other forms use silicone cups they can move around for a more massage-like effect. Another form of fire cupping called “wet” cupping creates a mild suction for under three minutes, then removes the cup to make tiny incisions in the skin with a surgical scalpel. During the second round of suction, a small quantity of blood is drawn out, which is believed to draw out toxins.
While the team at OSR Physical Therapy supports certain versions of fire cupping, we advise all of our patients to seek the advice of a medical professional for versions like wet cupping. Unfortunately, there is little evidence to support the theory that removing blood from the body also removes harmful toxins and substances.
There haven’t been many scientific studies published on fire cupping, but the ones that have been published demonstrate the health benefits of cupping. For example, a study published the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that fire cupping was beneficial in the treatment of acne, herpes zoster, and chronic pain.
Another study published in PLoS One discovered fire cupping was a safe and effective treatment modality for several diseases and conditions, including acne, facial paralysis, and cervical spondylosis. The British Cupping Society reports that cupping can be used to mitigate:
Although fire cupping is deemed a safe procedure, side effects can still arise. Patients may experience mild discomfort, bruising, burns, and in rare instances, mild infections during and after certain forms of cupping therapy. If you’re intrigued by this treatment technique, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you, talk to a member of our team today!
We can discuss with you, in detail, what you can expect after the treatment and recommend how many sessions we believe will benefit you and your condition. Life is short, so why not give it a try! If you’d like to learn more, talk to your physical therapist during your next appointment or request an appointment online. You’re also more than welcome to call and schedule an appointment at any one of our locations.
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