When it comes to ‘Cupping’ – it is important to first differentiate which type of Cupping we are referring to, as they both differ in practice and effect.
There are primarily TWO types of Cupping – Blood (wet) Cupping and Dry Cupping. Blood Cupping aka Hijama, involves the removal of blood from the body. Dry cupping is the type of Cupping that involves NO removal of blood and most often referred to ‘Chinese Cupping’. This type that has become popular amongst Olympic athletes and celebrities in recent times as it leaves circular marks on the skin.
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Blood Cupping has been used for thousands of years. Although it is often associated with traditional Chinese Medicine, the entire world once knew this of therapy and used it. The Ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese used Cupping therapy. The oldest recorded medical textbook, Ebers Papyrus, written in approximately 1550 BCE in Egypt, mentions Cupping (Curtis, 2005). In the UK, the practice of Cupping therapy also dates back a long time, as it was mentioned in one of the leading medical journals called ‘The Lancet’, founded in 1823. The word Lancet refers to the surgical instrument that can scrape the skin to perform blood cupping. Blood Cupping is the most frequently used, oldest and often the most effective method.
How Blood/Wet cupping Works?
A surgical instrument is used to scrape / pierce the skin and a cup is applied to collect blood. The air inside the cup is removed in some way, to form a vacuum. The vaccum has the effect of drawing out the blood and collecting it in the cup. Over the centuries, the method of forming the vacuum has varied greatly. As have the materials used for the cup.
How Dry Cupping Works?
Cups are placed on various points of the body with a vacuum created inside. The cups simply remain there for a while until the skin swells up due to the vacuum. No blood is removed. Different materials can be used for the cup such as glass, plastic, bamboo or silicone. It is alleged that the swelling of the skin can increase blood flow and reduce swelling and tension etc. No incisions are made. (It is important to note that this is NOT what Hijama is.)
‘Hijama’ in Arabic is derived from the word ‘hajm’ which means sucking. And it refers to the practice of Blood Cupping only. Most Muslim Cupping therapists are trained for the Sunnah Cupping points on the body. This is the area on the back, in between the shoulder blades, slightly towards the neck. There are many other Cupping points too to target different conditions. However for someone who just wants Hijama done to follow the Sunnah, the ‘Sunnah points’ are where the therapist will apply the cups.
Moving Cupping / Massage Cupping
A form of dry cupping. This is a method of massage and is done by applying oil to the skin and moving the cup, by a weak suction, on the area to be treated.
Benefits of Hijama
First and foremost it’s a Sunnah, so there is reward for the believer in practicing it
“Indeed, the best of remedies you have is hijama” – Bukhari 5371
Hijama therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:
Back Pains (upper and lower)
Neck and shoulder pain
Headache & migraine
Cough and dyspnoea
Lumbar disc herniation
Brachialgia, the pain produced by a trapped nerve in the neck
Hijama is not painful, however to give you and idea it is probably similar to having a blood test. Hijama is not as intrusive as a blood test though as it does not penetrate the veins.
When the cups are compressed on the skin you may feel a little uneasy at first, but eventually this settles down after a minute or two. Once the cups are released it’s very relaxing.