Cupping has a long legacy. It had been mentioned in Egyptian scriptures as old as 1550BC. Prophet Muhammad recommends it in Hadith. Hippocrates had mentioned about it in his books.

A. Dry Cupping: Simple, run of the mill cupping. Vacuum can be created in various ways to latched the cups to the skin for desired duration.

Dry Cupping

B. Mobile cupping: The cups (and the suction force) are dragged over the surface of the skin. Kind of effluerage, but with negative pressure.

Mobile Cupping.  The cup is moved on The body surface. Another variation is,  when the patient is asked to move the body part with cups on them!


C. Flash Cupping: Cups are attached and withdrawn immediately.

Flash Cupping

D. Needle Cupping

Needle Cupping

E. Herbal Cupping: The cups are heated with herbs.

Herbal Cupping

F. Water Cupping: Needs a lot of manual skills!

Water Cupping

G. Wet Cupping/ Hijama: Blood letting Cupping

Wet Cupping

How does cupping work? There are multiple theories.

Cupping in Traditional Chinese Medicine  style is based on Meridian system.

Wet Cupping supposedly removes the harmful waste materials from the body.

There are even elaborate theories on diagnostic significance of residual cupping marks. Impressive?

By far the best scientific evidence comes from UCSF. By the way, they don’t call it cupping. “Myofascial Decompression Therapy” is the name they use. Old wine in new bottle?

The marks on Michael Phelps are from this particular form of therapy.

There are a few research articles that validate Cupping

However, as you can see, good quality studies are hard to find.

There are quite a few reasons why a physio should consider incorporating cupping in their arsenal

Although vacuum therapy is hardly a new entity in the field of physiotherapy

Hurdles that a physio face while justifying cupping


So while cupping is an exciting tool in the field of manual therapy a lot of issues have to be sorted out before it can be called a mainstream physiotherapy modality. The onus is on the practitioners and propagators to justify it’s use.

Cupping: Good, Bad and Ugly- A Talk Delivered in SIP Conference 2017

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