The suction and negative pressure created by cupping releases rigid soft tissue, breaks up and drains excess fluids and toxins, loosens adhesion's and lifts connective tissue, and brings blood and lymph flow to stagnant skin and muscles. This increases the blood flow, loosens the fascia or connective tissue, and stimulates healing. It is similar to the way deep tissue massage can be used to break up scar tissue and reduce pain. The cups are often placed on the back, neck, and shoulders or the site of pain. Cupping may cause temporary 'bruising' (this is not bruising as no trauma is caused but is increased blood circulation and stagnation) and soreness, depending upon the degree of suction created by the vacuum and the level of internal stagnation.
Cupping therapy can be performed in different ways. Traditionally, a burning cotton bud is placed inside a glass cup, which creates a vacuum inside as the hot air cools. The cups can also be attached to a pump that creates suction.
Different types of cupping are selected based on the treatment goals of the acupuncturist. There are also different types of cups. Most commonly, cups are made out of glass or plastic. However, a thousand years ago, cups were made of bamboo, clay, or animal horns.
The cups are left in place anywhere from five to 20 minutes depending on the nature of the individual's condition. A general course of treatment involves two to six sessions in intervals starting from three- to 10-day gaps.
A therapeutic cupping treatment involves warming and placing cups, usually made of glass, on the skin. By warming the air within the cup, a vacuum is created, and when it is applied to the skin, the tissue is drawn up into the cup. According to TCM, this would be a favorable outcome, suggesting the treatment has successfully removed toxins and stagnation. The cups are removed by lifting one edge, which allows air in and breaks the seal and vacuum.