Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy – What is it?

By Caroline Wong, R.TCM.P, B.A. Hons


Caroline Wong is a registered traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, obtaining her degree from Tzu Chi International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Vancouver.

When I was younger, I would be freaked out by dark circles on the backs of older women at my local swimming pool. I thought to myself what did they do to themselves and why would they allow that done to their bodies. I thought it was painful but as I’ve learned it’s quite the contrary.

In fact, cupping feels so relaxing that some people want it all the time. It works by creating a vacuum suction in the cup by fire and placed on areas of the body where there’s discomfort. The cups are either moved along the body with oil or placed where there is pain. Most people would describe the feeling of cupping like a reverse deep tissue massage. It can relieve tight muscles and tension in the body and leave you feeling very relaxed.

The colour of the cupping marks can also tell me how well your circulation is. Darker marks indicate poor circulation of the body, pale or no marks indicate qi and blood deficiency, marks with red dots means there’s an accumulation of toxins. Healthy marks are often pink and do not leave much of a mark. If you do have marks they will usually fade away within a week. In any case, the more often you get cupping the lighter the marks usually get and are an indication that there’s less qi and blood stagnation in the body translating to better circulation and less pain.

Caroline Wong, R.TCM.P, B.A. Hons