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What is a cup kiss?

You may have seen those funny-looking purple-ish circles on someone at the gym...or perhaps, to your surprise, your therapist even left some on you!

To most people, cupping treatment feels great, delivering a sensation of deep warmth and tingling that lasts long after treatment. However, even as it creates a deep sense of relaxation, there may be some discomfort, depending on the area of the body and the condition being addressed.

In use for more than 5,000 years and employed by healers in Egypt, China, Greece, and elsewhere, cupping uses negative pressure to accomplish a wide range of therapeutic results. For example, the Chinese created suction using hollowed-out animal horns to divert blood flow from an open site during surgery. Suction can also be created using heat, a vacuum gun, or a bulb. Cupping grew in popularity as a therapy, with healers treating diverse conditions with cupping methods that ranged from lymphatic drainage to deep fascial release.

The goal of traditional Chinese cupping is to release trapped “chi,” disperse internal heat, move stagnant blood, treat pain, and extract toxins. Lighter suction is used for drainage, whereas heavier suction is used to lift connective tissue, loosen adhesions, and soften tight muscles.

Massage cupping uses a different approach, where oil or lotion is applied by the practitioner, who then moves the cups continuously, easily loosening and softening tense muscles and adhesions. This method could be considered a form of deep massage. Regardless of the approach, the process may leave a “cup kiss,” a mark indicating the release of intense stagnation. The ring will fade in time, taking anywhere from a few hours to a few days after treatment.

One should hydrate after cupping treatment, refrain from rigorous exercise for 4–6 hours, and avoid exposure to extreme temperatures. As with all treatments, it is important to make your practitioner aware of any health conditions or injuries that require extra care. If you are uncertain of your risks, ask your doctor if it is okay for you to undergo cupping therapy.

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