In praise of cupping


Cupping is an indispensable clinical tool in my practice. I include cupping in treatments to address a wide range of health complaints, and to be more effective than with acupuncture alone:

  • muscle tension and pain

  • nerve pain and radiculopathy

  • asthma and allergies

  • hot flashes

  • menstrual pain

  • headaches and migraines

  • high blood pressure

  • acne

  • systemic inflammatory conditions

  • IBS

  • emotional constraint, anxiety, and depression

  • colds and flus (once upon a time)

How does it work? We don't fully understand and there's a great need for more research. Traditionally cupping is used to extract pathogens from the body. It draws out heat, cold, and dampness from the most superficial layers of tissue and is able to affect immune function in deeper layers of tissue. By increasing blood flow, cupping may also bring nourishment to areas of poor muscle engagement or tissue laxity. The goal is to direct the body's own healing mechanisms. Nowadays in addition to these traditional uses, cupping is a tool for remodeling the fascia. I can smooth it out, increase tissue hydration, and decrease the likelihood of injury. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has long recognized the relationship between the surface flesh and the internal landscape of tissues and organs. Research is beginning to confirm these relationships. We're learning why cupping at the site of pain is made more effective when cupping is also applied to areas downstream. This concept of fascia pathways, or channels, is fundamental to the practice of TCM. Your cupping mark is composed of "old blood," toxins, or as I prefer to say, blood waste. It's not a bruise! Here are some considerations:

  • I may apply cupping to one person's back and leave no marks. I can then apply cupping to the same degree to another person's back and bring up deep, dark marks that fade over the course of a week.

  • Cupping does not impart trauma to the skin, fascia, or muscles.

  • After 3-4 weeks of cupping to the same area, it's unlikely to continue to bring up marks. If cupping marks were a bruise, the capillary damage from repeated trauma would produce worsening marks with each treatment.

  • I may apply cupping to accelerate the healing of a bruise.

Do you experience pain, weakness, or any of the conditions above? Would you like to consider giving acupuncture and cupping a try? I encourage you to call, email, or schedule a free consultation. I’ll be happy to share my experience and discuss what kind of improvement you might expect if we work together.


Betsy Gordon Acupuncture in Portland, Oregon specializes in holistic dermatology and the treatment of digestive, autoimmune, and allergic conditions. She provides a treatment plan which brings together traditional Chinese and functional medicine approaches.