Sliding Cups in the Treatment of Colds, Flu, and Pain

Posted by on Feb 8, 2012

Sliding Cups is a specialized method of cupping that involves moving cups along large areas of muscles and fascia, like the IT band or hamstrings, or along the rhomboids, after massaging the skin with Ayurvedic oil, lotion, or counter irritants like Tiger Balm. It is useful both in the treatment of Colds and Flu, but also sports injuries and chronic pain.

Wind Evil and Cupping

There is a concept in Chinese Medicine called Wind, or Wind Evil, which describes internal and external processes. Internal wind, can include stroke, bells palsey, migraine–all pathologies involving an excess of energy in the head, whether viral (e.g., bell’s palsy), cardiovascular (stroke), or neuromuscular-vascular (migraine.)

External wind attacks the exterior of the body, as you see in colds, flus, measles, polio.

There is another kind of wind “evil” that attacks the joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscular system. This is associated with arthritis, all the rheumatic conditions, fibromyalgia, and myofascial pain syndromes involving trigger and motor point pain. It is often combined with dampness that develops internally, and needs to be treated with herbal medicine and dietary therapy, as well as acupuncture. If it combines with cold, then we also treat it with moxabustion

Cupping

Cupping is a treatment method that seems to have either evolved simultaneously in China, the Middle East, and Europe, or to have spread from China west via the so called Silk Road trade route. It could have easily spread by boat as well, or via the Jesuit Priests that came to China in the 16th century when the Portugese established their foothold in Macau.

 Cupping Treatment for Colds and Flus

Cupping in Chinese Medicine is used in the treatment of the “exogenous” wind that strikes the body in colds and flus. It is considered to be a way to “pull” wind from the surface of the body. In this sense its effect is nearly mystical, as it is affecting the invisible “evil” Qi of the Wind-cold or Wind-heat that is the cause of flu and cold.

How Does Cupping Help Colds and Flu?

I do not believe that cupping does anything to the virus that causes cold and flu. Rather I believe that actually what it is doing is relieving the aches and pains associated with cold and flu. But, its also possible that your body may react to cupping as an exogenous invader by marshaling an immune response.

Cupping also helps colds and flu in that it can help to move the Qi of the Lungs when applied to the chest and upper back. This is useful in helping to dislodge phlegm from the lungs. For the same reason it can help with treatment of Asthma, especially when combined with “plum blossom” or “seven star” needle technique, along the acupuncture points “Ding Chuan” and across the upper back at the third thoracic vertebrae, around point Ding Chuan, and across the sacrum, to release Wind Heat from the Lungs and to stimulate the Kidney Qi.

Sliding Cups Treatment for Pain

But it is because of cupping’s value in relieving aches and pains, that I have come to develop a technique of cupping that I am very fond of in the treatment of myofascial pain conditions such as are found in tendinitis, stress and overuse induced myofascial pain in the head, neck, shoulders, mid-back, low back and legs, as well as for fibromyalgia and sports injuries, along with other appropriate treatment modalities.

 My method is to apply oil to the skin, in the Ayurvedic manner, that is to say oil in which herbs have been steeped, and then to apply cups to the painful areas. After 3 to 8 minutes I break the seal and most of the cups, but retain a few and slide them along the course of the muscles and fascia, both along the muscle pathway, and perpendicular to it. This later technique is cross-fiber cupping

This method actual pulls the skin away from the fascia, and is effective for breaking up adhesions that have developed in the fascial layer. This is very effective for loosening tightened muscles and fascia, and for relieving pain and inflammation.

Cupping also breaks the micro-vessels, but interestingly only at some places and not others. When it breaks the micro-vessels, you are left with a bruise in the exact circular shape of the cup itself. But again, what is fascinating, is it only has this effect in areas where the muscles were extremely tight.

What this does is force the creation of new micro-vessels, and by so doing it flushes the toxins like lactic acid and other krebs-cycle products from the inflammed tissues.

I may follow this procedure with the application of liniments or heat that help reduce the post treatment soreness that is an expected and normal part of the therapy, as in any kind of deep tissue work.

This technique is excellent for people who are reorganizing their fascia with other therapies like Feldenkrais or Visceral Manipulation/Cranial-Sacral therapies. Like acupuncture, cupping makes the body more flexible and open to any kind of positive remapping.

Fascia–What Is It?

Our bodies are essentially giant webs of fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that, along with suspensatory ligaments holds organs in place, and it runs like a mesh thorough the entire musculo-skeletal system. Inflammation that causes pain can occur in the periosteum, the thin layer of tissue at the surface of bones, it can occur in the tendons, especially where they attach to the periosteum, and where they attach to the muscle tissue, it can occur in the muscles themselves, especially in the trigger and motor points found in all muscles, and it can occur in the facial web.

If you pull the skin off a chicken leg, (sorry vegetarians) and observe the layer of film over the muscle tissues, and also that it permeates different segements of muscle, that is the fascia. And the fascia, when it becomes contracted, exerts a kind of pressure on the muscular tissue. This in turn keeps the muscle in a contracted position. When we stretch, this helps alleviate this condition. Acupuncture is very useful to deactivate the motor points and trigger point that contribute to shortened tight muscle. When you puncture these miniscule tissue bundles, the fascia unwinds, and the muscle lengthens, relieving contractile forces from the tendons and periosteum.

What sliding cups does is break up stagnation in the fascia below the skin. This is crucial, as if this fascia does not release (and there are deep tissue massage techniques, like cross fiber massage, that release it, too) then it continues to exert a contractile force on the underlying muscle tissue.

Cupping and sliding cups is available as a separate service for people that are loathe to do acupuncture, but in general I do it after an acupuncture treatment to enhance the effect of my myofascial release acupuncture. Cupping does not usually hurt, and it is possible to adjust the pressure of the cups to the individual liking. Cupping is actually quite pleasurable to most people, kind of like massage is.  Try it!

If you have any questions about sliding cupping in Chinese Medicine, or about my myofascial acupuncture techniques or trigger points, send me an email or check out my website @http://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com

 

copyright eyton j. shalom, m.s., l.ac., san diego ca 2012 February

all rights reserved use with permission

2 Comments

  1. Hi I have been using cupping lately, can you please tell me is there a specific direction of cupping, strokes up or down or any direction? Also I have seen on the web many different cup placements front chest and back for flu, is there a specific position to place them?

    • Acupuncture and Cupping techniques vary in Chinese Medicine depending on teachers and schools. It also depends on if you are using the cupping to remove Wind Cold or Wind Cold-Damp as in the case of common cold or lung issues, or if you are using it in the treatment of pain with chinese medicine and acupuncture. When i do sliding cups on the back for shoulder and back pain, i slide them up and down as well as across the fibers perpendicularly, with some kind of lubricant and Chinese medicine liniment like Dr. Shir’s liniment from Spring Wind herbs, while being very careful not to annoy the spine. For Low back pain or disc herniation i usually do stationary cups over the motor points of the quadratus lumborum muscles and also over the fascia between the lumbosacral junction and the posterior superior iliac spine PSIS. When treating cold and bronchitis with Chinese medicine and acupuncture I usually do hot cupping over the back shu points for the lungs and the wind points, between the shoulder blades level with thoracic vertebrae T2 and T3…..hope this helps!

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