Suction Cup Massage, also known as Fire Cupping, Body Vacuuming, Cupping or the more modern name Baguanfa is a form of Cupping Therapy from the ancient Chinese. There are also documents showing that the ancient Egyptians used Cupping Therapy and from the 18th to 20th centuries American doctors used this practice as well. Traditionally passed down verbally from generation to generation, this therapy was often used for releasing toxins from snake bites and to treat skin lesions. As time went on, it became more prevalent in households for the relaxation of muscles and the helping of colds, coughs and congestion.
The therapy works by creating suction on the skin that pulls the underlying tissues upward as opposed to the downward pressure of a ‘regular massage’. This helps to release tension in the muscles and pull toxins and excessive fluid from the tissues. It increases blood circulation which provides more oxygen to skin and muscles that may have been stagnant, while stimulating the peripheral nervous system. It can help to smooth away knots in softer tissues and loosen adhesions. Some find it helpful in treating cellulite or with skin or muscles that may have slight atrophy.
Massages usually take from 15 to 20 minutes, includes suction time (the amount of time the cups are left on the skin) of about 5 minutes and a relaxation time of 15 minutes, culminating in a total of around 40 minutes. The cups are used mostly on the broad expanse of the back but can be used on the thighs, hips, shoulders, neck, calves, abdomen, sacral areas and upper arms. Many of the key areas for placement are the same as acupuncture or acupressure points and therapists use a variety of techniques as well. The two core techniques are stationary and moving with both being sometimes accompanied by the use of oils, aromatherapy, liniments and/or analgesics.
Recipients of cupping therapy report a feeling of deep relaxation in the muscles, warmth and tingling long after the therapy has ended and reddening of the skin indicative of the increase of circulation produced by the treatment. There should be no discomfort and if there is, the therapist should be told immediately so that the cups can be removed.
The many benefits of this massage include lowered blood pressure, complete body relaxation, a decrease in pains and cellulite, relief of tiredness and muscle aches, improved concentration, range of motion and flexibility, enhanced skin tone and strengthening of the immune system, just to name a few.
Original cups were made of hollowed out animal horns, bamboo, glass or metal and heat was used to facilitate the suction necessary. A cotton ball was usually soaked in alcohol and then lit inside the cup, heating it sufficiently to then be able to remove it and apply the cup to the patients’ skin. The heat, and in some cases an oil, would create the tight seal needed to pull the tissues upward. The more modern cups may have suction guns attached to accomplish the tight seal needed or have added accessories such as magnetic ‘needles’ or points that apply pressure to the skin when it is pulled upward. A Suction Cup Therapist should have formal training just as any other massage therapist and can attain it at many of the same schools that offer the other types of massage therapies.