When it comes to alternative treatments, there are few older than cupping therapy, which traces back to ancient China and is still used today. The use of cups on your back to create suction (and focus chi according to the traditional practice) may seem odd, but it does increase blood circulation where it’s applied, which can help with pain and inflammation. 

It’s a method that was used by many athletes in the 2016 Olympics, and can be used to compliment treatment of a variety of conditions.

Hagerstown, Maryland residents looking to try this alternative treatment can get help from Dr. Chris Clark and our dedicated staff at Premier Spine and Sports Medicine. We offer individualized care with a variety of treatments designed to help you with pain relief and rehabilitation from injury. 

How does cupping work?

The modern practice of cupping often uses rounded glass cups which are placed on your back using either heat or rubber pumps to create a vacuum. This method is known as dry cupping, which is one of two methods used today. 

The other method is wet cupping, which also uses the vacuum method but punctures the skin to encourage a small amount of blood flow. In either case, the vacuum draws the skin and muscle in, causing them to rise in the cup. 

The cups are left in place for up to 10 minutes depending on which technique is being used, and once removed the treated areas are covered in bandages and ointments to protect from infection. Any bruising or marks on the skin usually go away within 10 days.

What conditions does cupping treat?

Many holistic and alternative treatments are dismissed as having only a placebo effect on patients, but a 2012 study suggests that cupping therapy’s effectiveness has some medical merit. The research indicated cupping therapy was effective for many conditions. Here are five examples:


Caused by the same virus that gives you chickenpox, this condition causes painful rashes. 

Herniated discs

Problems with the rubbery cushions (discs) in your spine can irritate nerves, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. 


This age-related wearing of the discs in your spine may present with no symptoms, but when pain comes cupping may be used to help.

Facial paralysis

The loss of facial movement is due to nerve damage, which can make your facial muscles droop on one or both sides. 

Cough and dyspnea

Both coughing and dyspnea (shortness of breath) are upper respiratory conditions that can be symptoms of many other conditions.

There are few side effects from the treatment itself, though you may experience dizziness during cupping therapy. Cupping isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be used for children under four, seniors, or menstruating and pregnant women.

Cupping is a noninvasive alternative treatment that can offer relief from pain and inflammation, and can be used for numerous conditions. To find out if you have a condition that cupping therapy can help, call our office or book an appointment online with Dr. Clark and Premier Spine and Sports Medicine today.

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