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Cupping for Inflammation: The Benefits + How It Works

WTHN Team/11.10.22

Cupping for Inflammation: The Benefits + How It Works

While athletes and wellness-enthusiasts may have brought cupping therapy into the spotlight in recent years, the practice dates back to ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Middle Eastern cultures—and its benefits are research-backed. Whether you’re dealing with symptoms of acute inflammation, such as light swelling or tenderness, or a more disruptive joint pain or stiffness, these sensations can be disruptive in our day to day lives. Enter: cupping for inflammation. 

Cupping is a natural way to release toxins from your body, and its long list of benefits includes stress relief, reduction of scarring, varicose veins, and stretch marks, congestion relief, a boost in digestion and metabolism, increased flexibility, and more. 

Below, learn more about cupping for inflammation specifically. 

Is cupping good for inflammation?

Whether you’re receiving treatment in a studio or at home (on your face or on your body), cupping therapy has a slew of benefits—reduced inflammation being one of them. 

As it sounds, cupping therapy involves the use of glass, plastic, or silicone cups, which act as a suction against your skin. Your practitioner will typically leave the cups on your skin for about five to ten minutes, or throughout the length of an acupuncture treatment. The suction of the cups increases blood flow to the area to provide tension relief and (you guessed it) decrease inflammation in your muscle and connective tissue.

Are you struggling with chronic pain or inflammation? Transform your health with an Acupuncture and Cupping Membership at NYC's WTHN, or enjoy the benefits of cupping at home with our Body Cupping Kit!

How does cupping work for inflammation?

The vacuum effect of the cups actually creates a micro-trauma response called sterile inflammation (yes, it causes inflammation to reduce inflammation). What happens next is your body triggers an immune response that sends cells to the cupped area. This kick-starts your healing and provides much faster relief than if you simply left the muscle pain or soreness alone. 

Once the cups are removed, you’ll see marks on your skin representing your body’s healing response. In TCM, the darker the cup mark the more stagnant the fluids (blood, lymph + toxins) in this area were and more relief you can expect to feel. Don’t panic when you see these marks—they’re actually a good sign, and they indicate that the cups are doing their job.

Types of inflammation cupping can treat

Like all health conditions, inflammation has a wide range of causes and manifestations. Studies have shown redness, swelling, and pain all to be symptoms of acute inflammation, which is typically caused by minor injuries and sprains, viruses, or bacterial infections. These symptoms can also be the result of heavy exercise or training. Chronic inflammation on the other hand, can lead to more severe fatigue, weight fluctuation, sleep trouble, and more. 

Cupping can be beneficial for lower-scale inflammation (like light swelling or tenderness), or more severe muscle aches and pains caused by exercise or injury. If you’re not sure whether or not cupping will be helpful for the specific type of inflammation you’re experiencing, it’s best to book an in-studio visit and speak with one of our certified practitioners.


How to get started with cupping for inflammation


Ready to start your healing journey? Thanks to celebrities such as Jennifer Anniston, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Lady Gaga (and of course, athletes like Michael Phelps), cupping is *way* more accessible than it used to be. You’re really just a click or two away from embarking on your healing journey.

Cupping can be scheduled on its own or as an add-on to an acupuncture appointment at any of our studio locations—and our at-home body and face cups make it even easier to achieve these benefits no matter where you are. 

If you’re interested in trying cupping, but not sure about the costs, there are ways to make cupping less expensive, such as enrolling in our membership program, or keeping an eye on our social media accounts for updates on specials and offers. We also have a first-time special, which will give you an intro acupuncture session and a 45-minute cupping treatment for only $75. This offer includes a 15-minute consultation with your dedicated healer, and is a great way to learn more about the benefits, ask any existing questions, and create a personalized treatment plan.

Keep in mind, cupping in our studio is HSA and FSA eligible. Simply ask for a receipt at the front desk and submit your claim for reimbursement.

What to expect from cupping therapy for inflammation

If scheduled as an in-studio service, you can expect a consultation with one of our expert healers, and a treatment specific to your own needs. As mentioned, the healer will suction the cups onto your skin and let them sit for 25 to 30 minutes, in combination with your acupuncture treatment. Your healer will then suggest a personalized treatment plan outlining how often and for how long you should continue to receive cupping therapy, and leave you with some tips and guidance on what to expect after cupping.

Purchased our at-home body cups or face cups? These can be used according to the instruction booklet that comes with the kit. Pro tip: opt for the cupping bundle, which includes the face and body cups for a discounted price. 

Are there any risks or side effects?

Nerves are normal when trying something new! The good news? Cupping therapy can actually be quite a relaxing experience. Studies show that there are typically no side effects from cupping. That said, if you are feeling symptoms like fatigue or mild headaches and body aches, know that these sensations are totally normal. 

Any of these symptoms should dissipate within a few hours, and while it might be tempting to reach for a pain-relief medication, there are a ton of healthier ways to help ease any cupping-related symptoms. To name a few:

Chinese herbs: Our herbal blends are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices, and tap into the healing, therapeutic power of plants to treat a number of health problems or ailments, including acute pain like fatigue, headaches, and body aches. Look for herbs with ingredients like Angelica Dahurica, Sichuan Lovage Root, Turmeric (Jiang Huang), Safflower Flower (Hong Hua), Frankincense Resin (Ru Xiang), Corydalis Root (Yan Hu Suo), Licorice Root (Gan Cao), or Cinnamon (Rou Gui)—such as our Head To Toe Relief blend.

Rest: If you’re feeling especially tired or a bit sore right after your cupping session, you’ll want to take it easy. After all, your body might need a minute to recover from all that healing stimulation. 

Hydrate: As your healer will remind you post-session, make sure to stay hydrated and replenish your body with the water and fuel it needs. You just released a lot of toxins!

Wrapping up: who should try cupping for inflammation?

Whether you’re an athlete, you’re recovering from an injury, or simply want to see what all the hype is about, cupping therapy is great for anyone who wants to reduce symptoms of inflammation. It’s always best to consult with your doctor before trying something new, especially if you are on any medication or have an existing medical condition.

If you’re nervous for your first session and still are not sure what to expect, rest assured that our healers will have your back (pun intended) every step of the way.

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