Cupping Therapy: Alternative Medicine for Pain, Immunity & Digestion


Hi, Dr. Josh Axe here, doctor of natural medicine
and founder of In this video, I’ll be talking about cupping therapy, an ancient
traditional Chinese medicine practice that has great benefits for helping you get rid
of pain, improving circulation, overcoming bronchitis and a number of other health conditions
I’ll be covering today. Now, cupping therapy got really popular several
years ago when Olympic athletes including Michael Phelps and other Olympic swimmers
started doing this to really support recovery. Now, they noticed and you’ll notice that you’ll
get these sort of black and blue marks on different areas of the body and that’s from
what cupping therapy does. It brings fresh blood and platelets and growth factors actually
to an area improving circulation. And so, this is one of the reasons why it can be healing
in different ways. It really moves blood and growth factors from one area to another supporting
that area in healing. So let’s talk about what cupping is specifically.
Cupping uses suction cups. Now today, oftentimes people will use a plastic cup but traditionally,
glass was always used and typically, what would be done is they would take a lighter
of some sort or flame and just put it in the glass for a second, pull it off and then put
it right down on the skin. What that would do is it created a sucking action to where
the skin was brought up in the area and then blood flow started going to the area. 
Now think about this, if you would ever, if you’ve ever done this, sprained an ankle,
what will tend to happen is you’ll notice that there will be swelling and oftentimes
there is bruising, right? So blood flow goes to an area. Cupping essentially, there’s none
of that inflammation that happens in a sprained ankle but it is moving blood from one area
to another and we know blood is full of plasma, it’s full of growth factors that actually
help the area of the body heal.  So again, cupping therapy is essential it’s
improving circulation to an area and improving blood, bringing blood to an area to support
it in the healing. Typically done with glass cup, sometimes today, a plastic like material
and it really focuses on the surface of the skin, pulling all that blood flow to a surface.
And this can be done dry or wet and again, a very common practice in traditional Chinese
medicine and done by acupuncturists today. So let’s dive right in and talk about the
many benefits of cupping. A few of them which may surprise you. Number one, it helps reduce
pain. Again, it does this by, I’ll give example for myself personally, the first time I ever
went to an acupuncturist, one of the reasons I went for was because I had this muscle spasm
in the back of my shoulder. I was having some shoulder pain and aching with my teres minor
muscle and so you may have had this or maybe you lacked range of motion, I’d get my arm
kind of here and it would catch a little bit because of a hyperextension injury I had and
my shoulder.  And I’ve done other therapies and nothing
was seeming to help. I got cupping done and immediately, I was able to move the area.
What happens in cupping is it really, imagine you’ve got a tight intense muscle, it creates
this sort of sucking action on that muscle to where it’s kind of like a deep tissue massage
and they did it for about 30 minutes. And finally when you pull it off it just releases
and that muscle completely relaxes, at the same time, pulling blood to the area which
actually supports that muscle, if there’s an injured tissue in the area, supports it
in healing. So number one benefit of cupping, it can help reduce pain and muscle spasm in
most areas of muscles and tendons.  Number two, it really promotes relaxation.
I talked about that earlier. Now this is commonly used both for athletes as well as in traditional
Chinese medicine in the trap area. If you ever get pain and tension in your shoulder
areas and your traps and upper back area, this is a great therapy to use because again,
it’s kind of like a deep tissue massage to where it really sort of pulls in that muscle
and when it lets go, that muscle completely relaxes. So again, it’s great for promoting
relaxation especially of shoulder tension. Number three, it really boosts skin health.
Again, oftentimes what can happen is we can lack circulation area or maybe you have an
area of your body that, let’s say again, a sprained ankle or a sprained, let’s use a
sprained shoulder for example. Your body went through a healing process of having inflammation.
It brought blood flow there and it did it one time, but maybe that area of the body
was only healed 70%, not 100% so you’re left with kind of chronic issues. What can happen
in cupping is it’s essentially like restarting the healing process for a second time bringing
new blood into an area, maybe allowing that part of the body to go from 70% healed maybe
up to 80 or 90 and beyond by improving that circulation and blood flow through an area. 
So again, in terms of skin health, if you have an area of your skin that’s not getting
enough blood flow or didn’t get enough, cupping can bring blood to the area, really allowing
that area to regenerate and heal through the power of plasma and platelets. In fact, you
may have heard of a therapy called PRP, platelet rich plasma. Six percent of your blood is
really high in healing and growth factors and so, anyways, kind of a similar thing here,
we’re getting that blood to the area to support healing.
Now another really common practice with cupping is using it to support respiratory issues
and colds. So what practitioners of Chinese medicine will do or other people that practice
cupping is they’ll go to the upper back and middle back area right where your lungs are
and they’ll do cupping in that area. What that does is it really helps improve circulation
of the lungs and really moving stagnation.  What can happen sometimes when we have bronchitis
or any type of respiratory issue or cold is we can get stagnation which means things aren’t
moving. You may have mucus or phlegm just sitting there in the lungs. Well, cupping
helps break that up and really helps increase that flow and that circulation in your lungs
helping you recover from a cold and flu more quickly and helping break up some of that
mucus and phlegm that can be sitting there in your lungs.
And number five, it can relieve digestive trouble. Again, one of the issues a lot of
people have today is stagnation. Stagnation means something is sitting there and it’s
not moving properly. Your body should always be moving. You should be having a strong blood
flow and digestive motility. Your liver should be releasing bile and cleansing and detoxing.
If your body is stagnant, your body is not able to fully heal. So again, using cupping
therapy in different areas to really support the stomach, the small intestine, the colon
in moving can actually really help the body in healing, that’s another big benefit of
cupping. And so, here’s a few things to know about
different types of cupping. Number one, you can do dry cupping or fire cupping. Now this
is the cupping that I’ve personally used most often with actually my personal acupuncturist
and with the patients that I’ve referred to acupuncturists over the years. There’s also
moving cupping. Now dry cupping, they’ll typically put the cup in one area and leave it there. 
Now in moving cupping, this acts even more like a massage and this can be very good for
muscular tension. They’ll take the cup, put it on the area, not just leave it in one area.
They’ll actually continually move it around, actually allowing a larger area to receive
those benefits and actually, again, this is very, very good especially for people with
muscle spasm and tight tendons. Wet cupping and bleeding cupping, this is
the cupping that was used in a lot of ancient Chinese medicine especially when somebody
had a skin condition. Again, if somebody has a stagnant skin condition, even things like
eczema and psoriasis, they can use this in certain cases as well, this bleeding cupping.
And bleeding cupping was again often used. If there is a lot of edema or swelling in
an area, sometimes it would pierce the area with a little blood and that would allow even
more flow of that blood and really helping get rid of swelling out of an area if there’s
a lot of swelling or chronic swelling.  Now cupping versus acupuncture. Again, both
are part of Chinese medicine. Both can promote optimal chi. And chi essentially means in
Chinese medicine, it’s essential your body’s energy. You know, if you see somebody who’s
kind of worn out and tired all the time, they say that person is low chi versus if somebody
is really bright eyed, you know those people, they’re just sort of glowing, they’re full
of energy, it’s overflowing, they would say in Chinese medicine that person has a lot
of chi. It’s just a lot of energy. Both draw energy and blood flow from different areas
of the body. Both dispel stagnation really improving circulation in the body to help
fight disease. Both promote relaxation, boost energy, relieves tension. 
Acupuncture uses needles to really improve circulation and movement in the body, whereas
cupping is doing it with the cups. Acupuncture is dry and acupuncture penetrates the skin
where cupping does not. Now here’s some precautions. Avoid cupping if you have skin infections
in an area and if you have an infection you don’t want to move that. You don’t want to
get that throughout the body and move it. So you wouldn’t want to use cupping if you
have an infection in that area.  Not recommended for pregnant women, just being
overly cautious there. And also cupping is considered a safe practice but find a well-trained
licensed practitioner. It’s typically going to be an acupuncturist or sometimes it’s going
to be a certified, whether it’s an athletic trainer or somebody who does this and who
has been properly trained. So here are the big benefits of cupping therapy
and where you may consider using it. Number one, if you have chronic pain in an area especially
muscular or tendon tension. Promotes relaxation, boosts skin health. Can improve respiratory
issues especially if you have a lot of stagnation in the lungs and release digestive trouble.
This is a practice that’s literally been done for thousands of years, has great benefits
by harnessing your body’s own blood to improve healing and circulation in an area.
If you’ve enjoyed this live training video on cupping, make sure to subscribe here to
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more information out there on traditional Chinese medicine and herbs. Guys, hey, thanks
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