Cupping was developed thousands of years ago and though the techniques have modernised, the original philosophy remains the same. Cupping involves placing glass or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove "heat" and "cold" and pull out toxins that linger in your body's tissues.
You usually will feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup. Often, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on your comfort and your practitioner's assessment of the problem, cups may be moved around or left in place. They may remain on your body briefly or for longer amounts of time. Each treatment is unique to you on that particular day. One very common area to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas, too — particularly on fleshy sections of the body. Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an injury or energetic blockage "Qi" under the area that was cupped. The skin discoloration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but is rarely painful. Once the marks have cleared, the procedure can be repeated until the condition or ailment is resolved.
Cupping is not exclusive to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Variations of this treatment were used by ancient Egyptians, North American Indians, Greeks, and in other Asian and European countries. Cupping therapy was recommended by Hippocrates, the man whom many consider to be the "Father of Modern Medicine," in his guide to clinical treatment.