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Denise Millstine

, MD, Mayo Clinic

Last full review/revision Sep 2018| Content last modified Sep 2018

Cupping (a manipulative and body-based practice) is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Cupping is believed to increase blood flow to the site of application, thereby improving healing in that area.

The air inside a cup is heated, often using a rubber pump in modern practice. The heated cup is immediately inverted and placed on the skin. The resulting vacuum sucks the skin partway into the cup, which may be left in place for several minutes.

Cupping has been used to treat herpes zoster, facial paralysis, acne, cervical spondylosis, respiratory symptoms, and pain (1).

Cupping will redden and may burn the skin.

(See also Overview of Integrative, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine.)


  • 1. Cao H, Li X, Liu J: An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy. PLoS One 7(2):e31793, 2012. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031793.

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