Cupping was used often in Western medicine until the 20th century. Soon thereafter physicians rarely recommended cupping as therapy and it was almost lost in the west. In Europe and Asia cupping was still widely used as a home remedy, particularly for muscle pains and lung conditions.
The first introduction to cupping that i had as a patient was when i was in my late childhood when i developed a cold that progressed into a strong cough resulting in bronchitis. My grandmother had a set of cups made of glass that she pulled out of medicine cabinet. She would disinfect them with an alcohol swab, wrap a little piece of cotton on the end of a long match, light it and put it in and out of the cup in order to create a vacuum, as fire would consume the oxygen inside the cup. She would quickly place it on my upper and mid back along the spine on both sides. The cups would stay on for about 20 to 25 minutes depending on the colour of the tissue inside the cup as well as my perception of them. It was a very warming, relaxing sensation and i could feel my back muscles relaxing. This family remedy was passed generation to generation and my grandmother surely knew what she was doing. In the process i would learn that the amount of time between taking the fire out of the cup and placing it on the body would alter the amount of suction created. The faster you put it on after removing the match the more suction there will be, slower made it weaker, allowing more oxygen get back into the cup. I was fascinated by that remedy among other holistic treatments that my grandmother introduced me to during my childhood. At the time i knew that cupping worked really well for lung and upper airway congestion. After completing a cupping course i learnt how many other conditions cupping can be beneficial for.
In Canada cupping is not taught to massage students during their college curriculum but rather is a continuing education that you can complete through accredited training course. It is usually compiled into one day theory and practice workshop by the end of which you will be given a certificate of completion and can incorporate that modality into your massage or physio practice.
How does it work in clearing Lung/ chest congestion?
The negative pressure created by the cupping tends to create more space and fluid movement in and around the lungs. This generally causes an immediate sense of relief during a congestive lung problem, helping to break up phlegm in the lungs. Cupping therapy stimulates the sensory nerves on the skin. Treatment on the back is directed to the spinal and parasympathetic nerves and sympathetic nerves besides it. The stimulation of these doesn’t only influences automatic nervous system but also various organs under its control. (Ilkay Zihni Chiraly, Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy, 3rd ed, 2014)