-co-written by Ivana Nikolic and Dr. Robyn Land

Have you ever seen someone’s back with large circular red spots, making them look like they were attacked by a giant octopus? They might be a deep sea adventurer…or they might have just had a cupping treatment from a registered acupuncturist.

Cupping therapy is a treatment in which a cup (made of glass, silicon or bamboo) is suctioned to the skin to cause local stimulation to treat disease and for illness prevention. It is also a great way to address and resolve tension in muscles and fascia (the connective tissue that looks like “plastic wrap” around muscles). It is often used alongside acupuncture and moxibustion (a warming treatment) to make a holistic, relaxing treatment.

Why Cupping:

  • warms the meridians (energy lines of the body),
  • invigorates qi (energy) and blood circulation,
  • relieves blood stagnation,
  • alleviates pain and swelling

There are couple of different ways to apply cups to the skin .

The cup-retention (or cup-waiting) method:

What it is:

The cup is suctioned to the area of the body needing treatment and left there for 10-15 minutes.


  • general imbalance in the body
  • point concerns and tension

After effects:

  • Release of muscle tension will give you new freedom of movement
  • This may leave those octopus-sucker-like spots that will disappear in a few days after treatment.

Mobile (or sliding) cupping:

What it is:

After a lubricant (usually a massage oil) is applied to the skin, a cup is suctioned to the skin and then slid across the skin until it becomes rosy-coloured.


  • large, thickly-muscled areas such as the back, lumbar region and the thighs.
  • fantastic treatment for the IT bands of runners
  • calming to the nervous system, so ideal for stress, anxiety and insomnia

After effects:

  • Muscles will feel relaxed
  • Mind will be calm (great to have a nap after treatment!)
  • Some redness over the treatment area for a day or two afterward.

Other, less common methods that might be use are flash cupping (rapid placing and removing of the cup) and also needle retention cupping.


Now that you know all of that, here are 4 reasons you should try cupping:

1. If you have pain in your body, it can help!

Cupping is wonderful at reducing pain. It brings circulation to an area, helps realign scar tissue and breaks down adhesions that can contribute to stiffness, tension and aches. Common conditions cupping addresses include:

  • arthritiscanoe
  • lumbar (low back) pain,
  • shoulder and upper back pain,
  • aching low extremities,
  • soft tissue sprains and contusions,
  • common colds,
  • headaches,
  • cough,
  • asthma,
  • stomach aches,
  • abdominal pain, and
  • dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation).

2. It’s a wonderful tool for athletes

Do you have tight IT (iliotibial) bands from running? Cupping can provide a lot of relief!

Athletes often get injury or tension building up in the fascia (or connective tissue) of the body. This includes tensions, ligaments and the tissue wrapping of the muscles. Cupping helps to break down adhesions and increase circulation to tissues so that they can heal faster and more optimally!

3. It’ll help calm your mind and benefit your sleep

A sliding cupping treatment beside the spine is a powerful way to encourage the parasympathetic nervous system (your “rest and digest” system) to kick in. This sort of cupping is often added at the end of a treatment to calm your mind and body. It is also a wonderful treatment for people with insomnia

4. Afraid of needles? Cupping to the rescue!

Cupping is a great treatment if you are afraid of acupuncture needles. They can be placed over acupuncture points, essentially as an acupressure treatment. No need to worries about needles through…they are so fine that you can fit 23 of them inside a normal blood draw needle…they are that tiny!!


Ready to give cupping a try? Book an appointment with Ivana Nikolic, Registered Acupuncturist at our Commercial Drive clinic or request that she comes to your workplace to offer in-office acupuncture appointments!