AskDefine | Define cupping

Dictionary Definition

cupping (See cup)


1 a United States liquid unit equal to 8 fluid ounces
2 the quantity a cup will hold; "he drank a cup of coffee"; "he borrowed a cup of sugar" [syn: cupful]
3 a small open container usually used for drinking; usually has a handle; "he put the cup back in the saucer"; "the handle of the cup was missing"
4 a large metal vessel with two handles that is awarded as a trophy to the winner of a competition; "the school kept the cups is a special glass case" [syn: loving cup]
5 any cup-shaped concavity; "bees filled the waxen cups with honey"; "he wore a jock strap with a metal cup"; "the cup of her bra"
6 the hole (or metal container in the hole) on a golf green; "he swore as the ball rimmed the cup and rolled away"; "put the flag back in the cup"
7 a punch served in a pitcher instead of a punch bowl
8 cup-shaped plant organ


1 form into the shape of a cup; "She cupped her hands"
2 put into a cup; "cup the milk"
3 treat by applying evacuated cups to the patient's skin [syn: transfuse] [also: cupping, cupped]cupping n : a treatment in which evacuated cups are applied to the skin to draw blood through the surface

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A former therapeutic treatment in which heated glass cups were applied to the skin, supposedly to draw blood towards the surface


  1. present participle of cup

Extensive Definition

Fire cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum next to the patient's skin. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it involves placing glass, plastic, or bamboo cups on the skin with a vacuum. The therapy is used to relieve what is called "stagnation" in TCM terms, and is used in the treatment of respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Cupping is also used to treat back, neck, shoulder, and other musculoskeletal pain. Its advocates claim it has other applications as well. This technique, in varying forms, has also been found in the folk medicine of Vietnam, the Balkans, modern Greece, Cyprus, Mexico, and Russia, among other places, including Iran where it is called 'bod-kesh' meaning literally 'pull with air'. Cupping was also commonly used as a Eastern European Jewish folk remedy, with the Yiddish name באנקעס (bankes). Cupping is also sometimes practiced in BDSM for stimulation or pain.


A vacuum is created by air heated by fire in a glass cup placed flush against the patient's skin. As the air cools in the cup, a vacuum forms that pulls up on the skin, stimulating the acupressure effect.
The cups are usually roughly bell shaped with a capacity of about 4 fluid ounces. Most commonly, a total of from 8 to 12 cups are applied to the subject's back in two parallel 'vertical' columns, midway between the spine and each edge of the body, spaced about 4 inches on center within each column.
There are several ways of heating the air in the cup with fire:
  1. One can swab rubbing alcohol (minimum 90%) into the bottom of a cup, then light it and place the cup immediately against the skin. By creating the seal the immediate loss of oxygen puts the fire out, preventing the person from being burned. The smaller the amount of alcohol, and the quicker the flame is extinguished by application of the cup, the better, so long as there is no risk of the cups falling off due to lack of a proper seal. Some experienced cuppers prefer the use of kerosine over alcohol, claiming it provides better ignition and thus greater suction.
  2. One can hold the cup inverted over a flame (e.g. a lit candle), heating the air, then place the cup immediately against the skin. Care must be taken not to heat the glass itself. Even so, the person to whom the cup is applied will feel distinctly more heat than in the previous method.
  3. One can ignite a flame with a small alcohol-soaked cotton wad resting on a small pad of leather or other insulating material that rests directly on the patient's skin, then place the cup immediately over the flame, putting out the fire. The quickness with which the flame is extinguished depends on the size and shape of the cup.
  4. One can place the cup on the skin and gently heat the bottom of the cup with a flame heating the air inside, whilst leaving a small gap to allow air to escape. When the air is heated sufficiently, the gap is closed and the air is allowed to cool.
Methods 1 and 2 heat the glass to some extent and have a risk of burning the patient if not carefully executed. Method 3 risks the cotton falling off the insulating pad onto the patient's skin, and leaves the pad and cotton wadding inside the adhering cup which could be considered cumbersome.
Baby oil massaged onto the skin first causes a better seal to form, making it possible to use this therapy with less heating of the cup. It is often possible to slide the adhered cup around on the skin, preserving the suction seal as it glides. Care must be taken not to move the cup over protruding moles, skin tags, scabs, etc.
The longer a cup is left on, the more of a circular mark is created. The skin pores are more open, and the patient may have a feeling reminiscent of a sunburn. An application of about 20 minutes is average, for the back; however this varies with the individual. In no case should the cups be left in place if the subject reports noticeable discomfort.
According to the American Cancer Society, "[a]vailable scientific evidence does not support cupping as a cure for cancer or any other disease". It can leave temporary unsightly marks on the skin and there is also a small risk of burns. Persons who claim this therapy to be beneficial report that its effect is a long lasting feeling of relaxation and invigoration. It is possible that whatever relief is obtained by this procedure is derived from the same principles that are employed in shiatsu massage, where instead of the outward sucking of the cups, strong inward pressure is directed at the muscles of the dorsal ribcage and abdomen.

Wet cupping

In this alternative form of bloodletting also called blood cupping, a small scratch or incision is made with a lancet prior to the cupping, and the pressure difference extracts blood from the skin. Islamic traditional medicine uses this technique - called in Arabic hijamah or hijama - with a number of hadith supporting its recommendation and use by Muhammad.
The hijama method cautions against over cupping. It also warns against cupping in the lying down position and further cautions against sleeping or resting following any cupping procedure, claiming that the one real danger of cupping is the potential risk of blood clotting following a procedure. Patients should take a brisk thirty minute walk following any cupping treatment. When properly performed using tiny incisions and not leaving the cups on longer than necessary, cupping leaves no marks or scarring.
While the history of wet cupping may date back thousands of years, the first documented uses are found in the teachings of Muhammad. According to Imams Bukhari, Muslim and Ahmad, Muhammad approved of the Hijama (Cupping) treatment. This treatment was usually recommended for headache or leg aches. Muhammad himself underwent Hijama for his lumbar pains.


See also

cupping in Arabic: حجامة
cupping in German: Schröpfen
cupping in Modern Greek (1453-): Βεντούζα
cupping in Esperanto: Fajrokupado
cupping in French: Ventouse (médecine)
cupping in Italian: Coppettazione
cupping in Hebrew: כוסות רוח
cupping in Polish: Stawianie baniek
cupping in Portuguese: Ventosaterapia
cupping in Finnish: Kuppaus
cupping in Swedish: Cupping
cupping in Tagalog: Ventosa
cupping in Chinese: 拔罐

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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