What is Dry Cupping?

Dry cupping 

Cupping therapy is an ancient healing technique that has been a part of human medical history since at least 1550 BC, when it was mentioned in Eber’s papyrus. Over the centuries, it has played an important role the traditional medical systems of China, Korea and Tibet and, today, is rapidly gaining popularity in the West. This non-invasive therapy has been embraced as a viable alternative treatment for a variety of chronic health conditions including pain, skin complaints and digestive issues.

For those considering booking themselves in for cupping therapy, it can be helpful to know more about the treatment, what it entails, and which type of cupping therapy best suits your particular needs. 

What is dry cupping therapy?

Dry cupping therapy (also known as ‘modern’ cupping therapy) is the variation of the treatment most commonly used in the West. During a dry cupping treatment, cups are placed on the skin and heat or suction is used to create a vacuum inside them. This puts the skin under negative pressure, lifting the top layer of the dermis up into the cup and separating it from the fascial tissues beneath. Unlike wet cupping therapy, dry cupping therapy does not involve any sort of bloodletting. Cups may be made of glass, silicone, bamboo, metal or ceramic and are typically left in place for 5-10 minutes during a treatment. 

There are several different types of dry cupping therapy, each of which can be used to address a specific set of issues. Common forms of dry cupping therapy performed in the West include moving/gliding cupping, site cupping, flash cupping and pulsatile cupping. 

How is suction created during a dry cupping treatment?

In a dry cupping treatment, a vacuum is created using one of two methods; wither by applying heat or manual suction. Where heat it used, the bottom of the cup is usually rinsed in methylated spirits before being set alight and placed on the skin. The flame consumes all of the oxygen in the cup, creating a vacuum which applies negative pressure to the skin beneath.

Alternatively, a vacuum may be created using manual or suction pumps, or by manipulating the cup before placement on the skin (in the case of silicone cups).

Types of dry cupping therapy

Moving/gliding/sliding cupping

Moving, gliding or sliding cupping therapy describes a form of the treatment in which cups are moved up and down along the skin.

First, lotion or oil is applied to the skin to aid movement the of the cups. Next, the cups are placed at strategic points on the skin and suction is applied. Finally, the practitioner moves the cups up and down along problem areas to massage the skin and underlying tissues. This can increase local circulation and stimulate the tissues and organs in the region of treated areas, for a wide range of therapeutic health benefits.

What conditions can be treated by moving cupping?

Moving cupping can be used as a type of abdominal massage, which can be used to address various issues relating to the digestive system.

For example, this type of dry cupping therapy has been found to successfully treat functional constipation in children. It is thought to do this by stimulating large bowel peristalsis, which can speed up your gastrointestinal time for more regular bowel movements and improved gut health overall. When performed on the stomach, moving cupping also has the potential to reduce flatulence.

Moving cupping has also proven effective in reducing the appearance of cellulite, a condition in which the skin over the thighs and buttocks takes on a lumpy, dimpled appearance. Cellulite affects almost every adult woman to some extent, and many consider it to be unattractive. By improving microcirculation to the local tissues and encouraging lymphatic drainage, moving cupping can effectively decrease cellulite.

Site cupping

Unlike moving cupping, site cupping is performed to stimulate very specific points of the skin. During a site cupping treatment, cups will be placed at precise locations of the body and left in place for a period of around 10 minutes. This is often done to stimulate acupressure or myofascial trigger points, a technique that has been found to effectively treat several different conditions. 

What conditions can be treated by site cupping?

The most common use for site cupping therapy is to treat pain. Chronic pain of the neck, back, shoulders and feet can be debilitating for sufferers and can have a significant impact on quality of life. Studies have found that this type of cupping therapy was effective for relieving the pain associated with plantar fasciitis (a condition that often causes stabbing pain and a sensation of tightness in the heel). Site cupping of specific shoulder zones is also effective for reducing the symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) and was also found to alleviate chronic neck pain in sufferers.

Site cupping may also be an effective treatment for some digestive issues, such as nausea and vomiting, When applied to acupressure point p6 on the inside of the wrist, site cupping was found to successfully prevent postoperative nausea and vomiting.


Dry cupping is the form of cupping therapy most commonly practiced in the West. During a dry cupping treatment, cups and suction are applied to the skin at specific points on the body. This creates negative pressure, lifting the skin into the cup and stimulating the tissues beneath as an alternative treatment for a wide variety of conditions. 

In the case of site cupping, the cups are usually left in place for around 10 minutes to stimulate a specific point beneath the skin. This therapy is often performed as a treatment for pain and can lessen the symptoms associated with plantar fasciitis, CTS and neck pain. During a moving cupping treatment, cups are moved up and down over problem areas after they have been applied to the skin. This has been found to effective treat conditions such as constipation and cellulite, and can improve local blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.

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