The Mysterious Purple Spots: Why Cupping is Becoming So Popular!

If you’ve tuned into the Olympics this month, you’ve already heard about the therapy of cupping used by athletes and the circular bruises it leaves on their bodies. It has caught the attention of mainstream media and the masses are incredibly interested as to what’s behind this method of pain management. Cupping has been around for centuries and used by many different cultures – it is especially staple in Traditional Chinese Medicine and a modality we use at our clinic often. Specifically, cupping is a therapy in which a vacuum is created in a glass cup to draw stagnant fluids up to the surface tissues. This practice is found to be extremely effective for reducing the swelling from sprains and strains or for draining toxic swellings. It is a simple and safe way to pull stagnant Qi, blood, and fluids out of the injured area. The therapy works for both acute and chronic situations and is especially noted in it’s ability to help with low back, upper back and neck pain. Often, injuries result in small blood vessels being ruptured and this blood ends up coagulating and stagnating, which impairs the muscle tissue from being able to slide smoothly over one another. Stagnated blood also blocks your circulation’s normal function of nourishing muscles and tendons and makes the area more susceptible to cold and stress. Cupping is an excellent way to get the coagulated and stuck fluids in your muscle tissues to move and release. The aftermath of the cupping is usually what shocks and confuses people – the suctioning of the cups can leave round, dark purple bruises for several days. This is totally normal and indicates that the stagnant fluids have moved to the surface and out of the deeper tissues where it can be more easily dispersed. If there is no stagnation in the area, the cup will just leave a red mark that will fade rather quickly. Cupping is truly an amazing method for pain relief – it’s simple, easy, effective and has stood the test of time. Although we do not perform cupping as a stand-alone modality, we certainly do add it to our acupuncture treatments if it will benefit the patient and provide relief. Feel free to ask more about the practice of cupping at your next appointment and find out if it can help you!




Do not perform cupping over the following areas….

  • superficial veins
  • thin skin such as the face
  • eyes, ears, nose or mouth
  • the internal organs (liver, stomach, intestines)
  • open wounds or lesions
  • the back or abdomen of pregnant women
  • people who bruise easily, have lupus, hemophilia or have a significant skin sensitivity
  • diabetics, children or the elderly


**Source: A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth by Tom Bisio

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