Hot Cup Massage

Whilst living in Cambodia, I discovered that an extremely popular “remedy” for everything from aches and pains to indigestion was what I would term “hot cupping”. The process involves using a flame to heat inside small cups which then, due to the heat created in the cup, were “suctioned” onto the patient’s body. All in all, I guess the process involved about 40 cups on the front and back (one side at a time of course). After about 10-15 mins, the cups are pulled off (and they really need to be pulled due to the build up of suction) and whats left is about 40 perfectly round blueish-purple “bruises”. I asked some locals about it, and they tell me its to do with bringing blood to the surface of the skin, where toxins gather in the body (remember this is according to them) and on returning into the blood stream, take the toxins with it to be disposed of through normal bodily function.
I have had this treatment myself many many times, and although uncomfortable at first, the end result is the feeling of having one helluva good massage. The round marks fade in abut 2 weeks. They don’t hurt like bruises would, but they are about the same colour.
So, does anyone out there know anything at all about this? Have you seen it elsewhere? I believe it’s origin is in China, but I’m not really sure. Any medical types care to give their opinion?

Ah, cupping. That takes me back – to the middle ages, to be precise, and the joys of heroic medicine (named because you have to be a hero to survive it). Cupping used to be a common part of medieval doctors’ bag of tricks. There’s a description in Panatti’s “Extraordinary Endings” of it being used on one English king (William I, I think) to save his life. It didn’t work for him, though it was probably less life-threatening than bloodletting or blistering.

The “explaination” of toxins in the skin is pure Bald R. Dash. They may not hurt like bruises, but that’s what they are – blood vessels breaking (in this case because of the suction instead of a blow).

Leeches and bloodletting have a better reputation in medical circles.

Reality Chuck - what’s the difference between cupping and blistering?

In the movie, The Madness of King George, the King is subjected to cupping - it looked pretty painful. I’ve also read that George Washington, in his final illness, was treated with bloodletting and “blister therapy” - I had assumed blister therapy was the same as cupping.

Blistering was applying a poultice of mustard or some other irritant to blister the skin. Slightly different from cupping.

Cupping was, in effect, a giant hickey. Blistering is putting a caustic on the skin. Since Dave has first-hand experience, it looks like cupping doesn’t hurt as much as a chemical burn (blistering) would. :slight_smile:

IIRC, cupping is also seen in The Godfather II when little baby Fredo has pneumonia.

This is’s definition:

Not wanting to seem defensive on this, but there are literally millions of people throughout SE Asia who have this treatment day after day. I can’t help but wonder can THAT many people be wrong? Keep in mind that this treatment is quite probably many thousands of years old (?) - could something survive so long that provided no benefit at all?
On the question of pain - yeah it does feel uncomfortable at first, but in a matter of minutes the “stretching” sensation fades, and it kind of feels like you have got a plank on your back pushing down on you, and being pulled upwards at the same time. Hard to explain, but it really is bliss. (No, I’m not a leather clad freak!)
Funny story; there was one Khmer guy who suctioned three cups onto his forehead to try to get rid of a killer headache (this is very common practice). Unfortunately for him, he fell asleep with them still stuck on, and woke up a few hours later with the cups practically full of his stretched out skin (I guess it just keeps sucking and sucking if you don’t get them off). Eventually he had to break the cups to get them off, and was left with three saggy sporran-like forehead sacks… (This story was told to me by my Khmer teacher, so it may just be a Cambodian UL)
“An enemy of my enemy is my friend, Grasshopper”

PS Any doctors got thoughts on “hot cuppin”?

For thousands of years, people thought diseases were caused by evil spirits. Trepanning was thought to be a great way to cure them. But cutting a hole in the skull is now know to have very limited medical use.

All sarcasm aside, people tend to do what they’re taught to do. This is especially true in medicine. If your parents and the doctors tell you that something will cure you, then you’re going to try it. You may even feel better afterwards – either you healed despite it all, or it’s the placebo effect. So you think it worked. The doctor thinks it worked, so continues with it. If it fails . . . well, all medicine fails sometimes.

Take the example of cupping to cure a headache that you touched upon. Someone has a headache, and the doctor tries cupping. A few hours later, the headache goes away. Cured! But headaches often stop by themselves. Cupping may have had nothing to do with the cure. But the patient and doctor are going to believe it did.

Remember, cupping was not solely used in Asia. European doctors used it, too, for hundreds of years. They don’t any more. If it was of any use, why did they stop doing it? Heck, leeches, bloodletting, and trepanning are considered good medical practice – under certain conditions, not as a cure-all as they were in the past. Cupping is not. That should tell you something.