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Cupping therapy: All about the gain of pain

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Woman laying on chest with cupping treatment on back

Much has been written about no pain-no gain but cupping therapy takes the pain to another level. Amita Ghosh delves on the subject to ease few doubts

From athlete Michael Phelps to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham and Justin Bieber, all have been clicked with those red round marks sometime or the other. Is that a bruise? Is that a love bite? No, that’s a cupping mark. Cupping – an ancient Hijama therapy – is gaining immense popularity, so much so that it is now raging in Indian metro cities as well. Knee pain, migraine, asthma, obesity, dull skin – this magical therapy can help you do away with them all – we are not saying, but the experts are. “Other than death cupping, can cure everything,” claims one of them.

So what’s that?


Dr Rizwan, who owns a Hijama clinic in Mumbai, says “Cupping is an ancient form of Hijama or alternative medicine therapy where a therapist puts a number of unique cups on your skin depending upon the requirement, for a few minutes. The vacuum created by those cups creates an action of suction. The suction is mainly of toxins. You can also call it deep tissue massage.”

Cupping which was an alien word a few months back turns out to be the next big trend among the celebs. And most of the industry people thank Olympics for the same. It is said that Michael Phelps’ rumoured love bites (which were actually cupping marks) alongside his tremendous performance in the Olympics, made people believe that cupping is some hidden gem.

Cupping is considered as an old form of tissue massage therapy that can cure the most stubborn diseases of human bodies. While dry cupping channelises the pain in the body; through suction, wet cupping is supposed to cure diseases as grave as cancer.

How did it come to India?

Hijama cupping therapy was introduced 3000 years ago. Hijama was first adopted as a clinical method in Egyptian and Arabian countries. This system, involves placing small cups, often heated, on the body part that needs healing. A partial vacuum is created inside the cups and when these are lifted after a few minutes, it sucks out disease-causing toxin mixed blood, resulting in localised healing. Though there’s no scientific proof on the efficacy of cupping, it has even been proved beneficial to cancer patient who later was found leading healthier life.

“I am so glad that finally the awareness about cupping has arrived. I previously couldn’t convince people other than close friends and relatives how cupping helps. But now, I get 100 calls a day,” says Dr SM Khan who is a cupping specialist and has a clinic near Park Circus in Kolkata. Khan is a cupping expert from Japan’s Musa Sino Khenko Khaikutsu medical college.

It’s catching up

Cupping as a trend therapy is gaining a lot of pace in the country. Many herbal therapy clinics have embraced Hijama cupping in their list of services. “We have a specialist for cupping at our clinic, but the rising demand sometimes leaves us exhausted. Every day there are at least four bookings for cupping sessions,” says Dr Shahbaz Alam from an Unani clinic in West Delhi. Alam also reveals how a number established branded herbal therapy franchise contacted him to work as a visiting doctor at their clinics.

How to treat the bruises

As the toxic blood is draw up through a pressure created by vacuum tubes, cupping therapy leaves some bruises on your skin which do not stay long. But if you have a party to attend, a 24-hour attention might help you get rid of them to a great extent. Massage the affected area as frequently as you can during the 24-hours period. Try to avoid using oil or cosmetics or soap on the bruises. One should avoid activities that lead to sweating.

How much to shell out?

The experts have widely agreed on one point that one session of cupping might not seem that helpful but at least 6 to 12 sessions in a year can prove to be miraculous to individuals. The charges may vary from Rs200 to Rs 1000 depending on the kind of services you go for.

Types of cupping

As per the therapists, cupping can be of four kinds –

  •        Dry cupping: It is the process of deep tissue massaging. No blood is suctioned in this process.
  •        Water cupping: During water cupping the cups placed on the human body are filled with warm water. It is said that water cupping is the quickest detoxification therapy.
  •        Oil cupping: In oil cupping first herbal oil is applied on the skin before placing the cups. Oil cupping is said have great healing powers.
  •        Fire cupping: This particular type of cupping got popular after Michael Phelps opted for it during Olympics last year. Fire is placed on the cups and heat plays a major role in the therapy.

Benefits of cupping:

  • Relieves pain
  • Promotes relaxation and blood circulation
  • Heals deep injuries
  • Detoxifies the body
  • Removes dead and polluted blood cells
  • Therapists also recommend cupping for anti-ageing, face lifting and to treat obesity.