Cupping Therapy: What Is It & Is It Worth Adding to Your Spa?

Any spas key to success lies in creating a unique and unforgettable experience for its clients.

If you’re looking for a unique new therapy to add to your spa menu, consider cupping. With its roots in ancient medicine, cupping therapy is a treatment that doesn’t require much in the way of special equipment and your current staff can easily be trained to perform the procedure.

Here’s what you need to know about cupping therapy and why you should consider incorporating it into your spa menu.

What Is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping therapy is nothing new, though it has become increasingly popular of late. It involves heating a series of round cups and placing them on the skin to create suction. This practice has been used for thousands of years, having originated in ancient Chinese and Egyptian medicine. In fact, cupping was first documented in one of the oldest medical texts in existence, Ebers Papyrus, written in 1550 BC.

The theory behind cupping therapy is that the suction created by the cup increases blood flow which can promote healing and pain reduction. There are two primary methods of cupping:

  • Dry Cupping – This method utilizes suction only.
  • Wet Cupping – This method may involve both cupping and controlled bleeding.

Cupping therapy was originally performed using animal horns but later came to be performed with cups made from bamboo, then ceramic, and now glass.

What Does a Cupping Session Look Like?

Quite simply, a cupping session involves heating a series of cups and placing them on the skin to create suction. Various methods can be used to heat the cups, though most practitioners utilize fire, often with alcohol, herbs, or paper placed directly inside the cup. Once the cup is heated, the fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed directly on the skin. A more modern version of cupping therapy involves using a rubber pump to create suction rather than fire.

A dry cupping session usually involves leaving the cup on the skin for 5 to 10 minutes. Wet cupping goes much more quickly – the cup is usually left on the skin for only a few minutes before it is removed and the practitioner makes a small incision to draw blood from the area. After all of the cups have been removed, the practitioner may cover the area with ointment and/or bandages to prevent infection.

Cupping therapy can create bruising on the skin, but it usually goes away within 10 days. This form of therapy is often performed alongside other alternative treatments like acupuncture.

The Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Historically, cupping therapy was used to restore balance, increase circulation, and relieve pain. Cupping increases blood flow to the area where the cups are placed which can help relieve muscle tension and promote healing and cellular repair.

Research suggests cupping may provide some benefit for the following conditions:

  • Acne
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Dyspnea
  • Facial paralysis
  • Lumbar disc herniation
  • Shingles

Many of the benefits associated with cupping have to do with the resulting increase in circulation. By increasing blood flow to the area where the cups are placed, you may see reductions in cellulite, reduced muscle tension, or relief from pain. Cupping may also encourage the body to release accumulated toxins and it may even improve the appearance of varicose veins and spider veins.

Some people report relief from anxiety following cupping therapy, possibly due to the relaxing, massage-like nature of the therapy. The movement of the cups over the skin may also engage the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes deep relaxation.

Are There Any Risks or Side Effects?

Before incorporating a new therapy into your spa practice, it’s essential that you verify its safety. Cupping is generally considered safe, though some people experience dizziness or lightheadedness during the treatment – some also experience sweating or nausea. The most common side effect of cupping is irritation or bruising of the skin around the rim of the cup. Clients receiving wet cupping therapy may also experience pain at the incision sites.

Any side effects of cupping generally occur during the treatment or immediately after, so it’s a good idea to leave a few minutes at the end of the session to ensure your client doesn’t have a reaction. It’s also important to communicate with clients how the therapy will go and what they can expect to be sure they understand the risk involved.

Is It Worth Including Cupping in Your Spa Menu?

While cupping may be an ancient therapy, it is widely considered safe, and the general public is more familiar with it now than they were even a few decades ago. Adding cupping to your spa menu brings something unique to your spa without requiring a significant investment toward training and equipment. It can even be used as an add-on to upgrade treatments already on your spa menu. A cupping session generally only takes 30 minutes, so it can easily be incorporated into massages and facials to maximize treatment room utilization and boost revenue.

If you’re thinking about adding cupping to your spa menu, take the time to gauge interest among your existing clients. The American Massage Therapy Association has found that 41% of people seek massage therapy for medical purposes and 26% for stress reduction, so cupping may appeal most to clients who appreciate a holistic approach to skincare and wellness.