Cupping therapy is diet therapy and an ancient form of alternative medicine. It is a simple, economical and time-saving method of treatment. It has been practiced since Antiquity. There are two basic types of cupping therapy: dry cupping therapy (DCT) and wet cupping therapy (WCT). Previously, it was only practiced by countries in Asia and the Middle East. But with the advent of time, cupping therapy has become a part of the treatment in most parts of the world.
Cupping therapy uses a different number of glass or silicone cupping cups on specified parts of the body for a defined period of time and a vacuum is created either by heat or by manual aspiration. In Antiquity, the cups were made of bamboo, clay or hollowed out animal horns. In dry cupping therapy, the cupping is placed on a selected area and the skin is sucked into the suction cup without scarifications while, as in wet cupping therapy, few scarifications are performed on the specified area to drain the morbid material. .
History reveals that Cupping Therapy was used by the Chinese, Babylonians, Greeks and Egyptians. Herodotus, a Greek historian, 400 BC mentioned the use of DCT and WCT for the treatment of a number of diseases. Cupping therapy is also mentioned in the famous Eber papyrus (1550 BC). Hippocrates used this therapy for the management of a number of musculoskeletal diseases. The therapy is part of the intervention of various forms of alternative medicine such as Unani, Ayurveda, Prophetic and Chinese medicine, etc. Cupping therapy is known as Al-Hijama in Egypt and Arab countries.
In addition to the two types mentioned above, there are various subtypes of suction cups, including weak, medium and strong suction cups, slippery suckers, moxa suckers, flash suckers, fire suckers, vacuum suckers, needle, herbal suction cups, etc. The sites, indications, benefits, and contraindications are different for different types of cupping therapy. In addition, the number of suction cups, the application of the duration of the suction cups vary from site to site.
Dry cupping therapy (Hijama bila shart):
In dry cupping therapy, cupping is applied to specified areas of the body and negative pressure inside the cupping is created either by fire or by manual or electric suction. This brings out the skin inside the cup. The aim is to increase blood circulation, to divert disease material from the deeper area to the superficial parts or from the site of the pathology to an area where it can be easily evacuated.
According to the Unani System of Medicine (USM), pathological changes in the joints are due to either a disturbance of normal temperament or an accumulation of morbid material in the joints. As a result, the normal physiology of the joint is hampered. There are many therapeutic therapies in USM that bring the hampered physiology back to normal. Dry cupping therapy is one of them. It helps to divert the morbid material from the site of the pathology, thus restoring the normal temperament and the imbalance of disturbed moods. It is also believed to enhance a person’s immunity and well-being.
Indications for dry suction cups
Dry cupping therapy is indicated for a number of disorders, namely:
â¢ Various musculoskeletal pains.
â¢ Joint inflammation and muscle spasm.
â¢ Cervical radiculopathy.
â¢ Frozen shoulder.
â¢ Shoulder pain.
â¢ Back ache.
â¢ OA of the knee.
â¢ Dysmenorrhea pain.
â¢ For drainage of deep abscesses, etc.
Research is ongoing in many parts of the world to explore the medical benefits and the scientific explanation for these medical benefits. According to some research, the main action of cupping therapy is to improve blood circulation and remove toxins and wastes from the body. This is achieved through improved microcirculation, repair of capillary endothelial cells, accelerated granulation and angiogenesis in regional tissues. The mechanism of action of DCT is believed to be due to aspiration under atmospheric pressure and also to promote peripheral blood circulation and improve immunity. Cupping therapy has been shown to increase blood flow to the skin, alter the biomechanical properties of the skin, increase pain thresholds, improve local anaerobic metabolism, reduce inflammation, and modulate the cellular immune system. Theories that support the medical benefits of dry cupping therapy include:
1. Pain-Gate Theory (PGT)
2. Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls Theory (DNIC)
3. Reflex zone theory
4. Activation of the immune system theory
5. Publication of the theory of nitric oxide.
Due to various proven medical benefits, cupping therapy has been adopted worldwide as a treatment option. Various internationally renowned personalities including Michael Phelps, Shahid Khan Afridi, Virat Kohli and many Hollywood celebrities have undergone cupping treatment. Cupping therapy is generally safe when performed by a trained professional.
(The author is MD (Regimenal Therapy) from the National Institute of Unani Medicine, Bangalore. He can be contacted at: Rafi687khangmail.com)