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Suck it Up: 6 Facts on Cupping Therapy

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It is making a big comeback thanks to top-notch Olympians, like Michael Phelps, practicing it, but the art of cupping has been around for centuries. The therapy involves placing cups on an affected area (often the back) using heat and suction—as in a heated cup is placed on the skin, a vacuum is created from the cooling, becoming a kind of massage (only pulling instead of pushing on tissue).

While cupping is a trending subject right now, according to WebMD it was used in Ancient Egypt, China, and the Middle East long before we saw the recent images of athletes with circular cupping marks on their skin. Instead of heating the cups, some modern practitioners (and patients) prefer to use a pump to create the vacuum effect. Here are six facts about this ancient therapy that’s enjoying the spotlight of late…

1. It’s a Cut and Dried Practice

Well, not really, but this was a clever attempt to explain there are 2-types of cupping—dry and wet. The dry version involves leaving the cups in place for a few minutes to suck the skin into it and expand the blood vessels, whereas wet cupping takes it a step further.

While still not proven, many believe that “wet” cupping can help rid the body of toxins. It involves the therapist making small cuts where the cup was providing suction, and then replacing the cups to draw out a small amount of blood. Proper precautions should be taken beyond this point to ensure no infection results.

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