‘To Cup or Not to Cup,’ That is the Question …

Promoting Optimal Wellness for Body, Mind and Spirit

Cupping – Giant, round bruises seen on Michael Phelps’ back and shoulders has drawn a lot of people’s attention during this year’s Olympics. You may also recall a similar reaction when actors Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Anniston, wearing backless dresses while walking the runway revealed the same bruising a number of years ago. All the attention has increased awareness of cupping as a means to ‘release tension; and ‘relax the muscles.’  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  has been around for thousands of years, as practiced in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. TCM practices may consist of a variety of techniques such as acupuncture, herbs, cupping, tui na, qi gong, and moxibustion.

This article in the Huffington Post has good information and included some research references but like many articles I have read since the Olympic cupping phenomenon, did not mention potential risks or possible contraindications (ie. reasons against) cupping.

According to the National Institutes of Health –

  • Cupping is considered generally safe for healthy people when performed by a trained health professional;
  • However, bruising, soreness, burns, discomfort, and skin infections are possible.
  • Cupping should not be performed on people with underlying health conditions, as more serious side effects can occur.
  • People considering cupping should not delay conventional treatment for their condition or use cupping in place of conventional treatment.

just because it seems to be the latest trend, before you run out to ‘try’ cupping it is important to do your research and then choose an experienced, licensed acupuncturist.

  • Inform the acupuncturist of any health issues, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, as well as any supplements or herbal products you are taking, especially those that may thin your blood and result in bruising or bleeding.
  • Discuss any risks and benefits of cupping with the acupuncturist.

Potential Benefits of Cupping – 

  • Relief of muscle tension.
  • Relief of back and neck pain
  • Reduction of anxiety

Risks – Acupuncture and Cupping are generally considered ‘low risk.’ Potential Risk – bruising, bleeding, infection** (**Particularly if someone is taking blood thinning herbs or medicines, has a bleeding or liver disorder, is immuno-compromised or has a compromised skin barrier; in these cases, acupuncture and cupping may be contraindicated.               A doctor should be consulted in these cases to assess blood counts (WBC, Hgb/Hct, Platelets) and parameters given for when it is safe to use acupuncture and cupping. And with the use of acupuncture needles, there is a slight risk of puncture.

Cost – Varies from one acupuncturist to another. Some providers may take insurance or offer insurance discounts. Best to contact them individually to discuss what they offer, and the costs involved. Acupuncture Clinics are sometimes offered to clients in a group setting for discounted prices.

Do Your Research – Following the latest fad or trend in healthcare is not always the best route. The bottom line…, do your research. When it comes to medicine and your health care in many cases, one size does not fit all. Every individual is unique in their presentation of health and illness, symptoms, current healthcare regime, genetic make-up, and personal lifestyle. The best thing you can do is talk to your doctor and/or integrative therapy provider to make educated and informed decisions. Ask questions. Discuss: (or have your physician or a healthcare advocate assist you) safety, effectiveness, possible side effects or potential adverse reactions, risk-benefit ratio, cost, and any precautions or contraindications to be aware of.

Calling All You Cape Ann Acupuncturists – Please feel free to weigh in and make comments on this blog post. After all, this is your area of expertise. I am speaking from the perspective of health education, review of the literature, and personal experience as a client.

Like the Hair Club President for Men (if you remember that commercial 🙂 I’m Not Only a Provider of Integrative Therapies, I’m Also a Client.  I have enjoyed all aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine mentioned above, offered by a variety of highly trained, experienced licensed acupuncturists. (Licensing for acupuncture in Massachusetts is the equivalent of a Master’s Degree and requires 1950 hours of training) The acupuncturists mentioned in this post have been instructors at the New England School of Acupuncture, the oldest school in the country.

On the North Shore and Cape Ann, acupuncturist that I have found to be especially helpful include: Amy Jao LicAc (Essex) for my winter immunity boost. Greta Williams LicAc (Gloucester) helped balance hormonal issues. Eugenia Lai MAOM, LicAc (Danvers) and part of the Lahey Danvers Pain Management/Integrative Therapies program. Susan Panarese M.Ac., Dip., Ac (Danvers.) Both Eugenia and Susan have helped me with issues of flare-ups of back pain.      When I worked as an RN/Reiki Provider and Clinical Hypnotherapist at North Shore Medical Center’s (NSMC) Wellness & Integrative Medicine Department/Women’s Center, I saw Zhen Zhen Zang M.Ac., M.D.inChina, andLic.Ac. for general well being. Zhen Zhen and Eugenia offer herbs* as well as acupuncture. (*Something to discuss with your physician due to possible drug interactions and contraindications.) You may know other acupuncturists. We’d love to hear your feedback.

Interdisciplinary/Collaborative Care – Whether engaging in conventional medicine, complementary, alternative, or integrative therapies,  it is best to work collaboratively with all your healthcare providers, informing each one about any and all treatments and therapies you are pursuing. When trying a new therapy, always check it out first with your doctor.  Safety, efficacy, ‘best outcomes’ and optimal health and wellbeing are the ultimate goals.

Wishing You the Best in Health,    Karen


Karen Pischke B.S.N., R.N., C.C.R.N. Alumnus. Certified Hypnotherapist, Tobacco Treatment Specialist, Usui Reiki Teacher/Komyo Shihan. Owner/Founder of Dreamtime Wellness LLC.  Promoting Optimal Wellness for Body, Mind and Spirit www.DreamtimeWellness.com. Find us on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dreamtime-Wellness-/348619611849199

Disclaimer: This blog pro­vides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about health and related sub­jects. The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately licensed physi­cian or other health care worker. Never dis­re­gard pro­fes­sional med­ical advice or delay in seek­ing it because of some­thing you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a med­ical emer­gency, call your doc­tor or 911 immediately. The views expressed on this blog and web­site have no rela­tion to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other insti­tu­tion with which the authors are affiliated.

Sources and More Information –


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