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The Sussex College of Chinese Massage & Acupuncture

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Woman laying on chest with cupping treatment on back

The Art of Cupping

Cupping has been used by modern and ancient civilisations alike. Many cultures around the world that use this technique today have been doing so for thousands of years with very good reason. It is simple, effective, and costs very little. It makes perfect sense to suggest, that many thousands of years ago, before any form of medical knowledge existed, that prehistoric man would somehow try to draw out illnesses, whether they were bites, stings, infections or other forms of disease that he knew little about.

Therefore some form of suction was required, and different cultures and civilisations around the world used whatever was available to them in their immediate environment. Along the shoreline, shells were used and in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America horns from various animals were made into cupping devices.

As far as I am aware, the earliest known record of any form of cupping is in Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical text books in the world. It describes in 1550 B.C. that the Egyptians used cupping for medical purposes. Also a carved Egyptian relief of medical instruments dated around 1500 B.C. show cups for cupping purposes. Archaeologists found evidence in China of cupping devices dating back to 1000 B.C. and Hippocrates (460 B.C.-377 B.C.), the famous ancient Greek ‘Father of modern medicine’, used cupping for angina, menstrual and other disorders, as recommended in his guide to clinical treatment.

It is worth pointing out, that Hippocrates and his followers apparently sought naturalistic reasons for illness and came to believe that illness was due to poor diet, lack of exercise, emotional factors and exposure to the elements. This view is pretty much identical with Chinese belief.

The Treatment

This treatment utilises glass jars to create a vacuum on the surface of the skin, at various locations of the body. TCM maintains that cupping draws out cold, wind and damp thus alleviating the symptoms associated with these environmental influences. Such symptoms may include general aches and pains, stiff joints and swellings. It is also said that the lungs may be opened by the use of cupping as it draws mucus, congestion and toxins away from them and towards the body’s surface, thus improving respiration and circulation.

Cupping has helped to improve symptoms related to;



Back Pain

Bronchial Disorders

Common Colds


Chronic Cough

Chronic Common Colds

General Aches & Pains

Frozen Shoulder

Joint Pain

Muscle Tension



Sports & Traumatic Injuries

Stiff joints


Tennis Elbow

Women’s Disorders (Gynaecological)

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