The ancient Chinese therapies of cupping and scraping came into existence about 2000 years ago. Today, they’re still very much used to treat a variety of ailments.
In fact, both practices have become more popular over the years thanks in part to endorsements by celebs and the media.
Actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston have both appeared on the red carpet with circular cupping marks adorning their backs. At the Rio de Janeiro games, the same marks on the bodies of Michael Phelps and fellow athletes became a talking point. Even Kim Kardashian has posted on Instagram about her face cupping ritual, which purported to prevent wrinkles by improving blood flow and muscle tone.
More recently though, the practice of guasha (or scraping) has been spotlighted by Vogue and other publications extolling its face-lifting and skin-tightening benefits. YouTuber Aja Dang hasn’t been shy about her love for guasha either, making the treatment seem even more appealing.
A quick intro to cupping and scraping
For the most part, locals in this part of the world have a good sense of what both cupping and scraping are about.
Both treatments work by restoring our circulatory system. As our circulatory system weakens with age, blood flow begins to stagnate. Some Chinese practitioners refer to this state as “dampness”. This stagnation interferes with the delivery of fresh oxygen to cells, and negatively affects their metabolism over time.
Cupping and scraping works by relaxing and opening up connective tissue all over our bodies. This allows freshly oxygenated blood to flow into the area of application, nourishing it. The process also flushes out stagnant blood – along with all the waste it carries.
Cupping and scraping are complementary practices that amplify each other’s outcomes.
With cupping, cups are placed on the skin along specific acupressure points. This creates a suction that loosens tissues and draws stagnant blood to the skin surface. Scraping involves stroking a blunt stone-like tool repeatedly across specific areas of the skin. The resulting effect is similar to cupping’s, but more diffused.
And not to worry! As nasty as cupping marks may appear, they aren’t actually bruises. Rather, they are painless discolourations that indicate the severity of blood stagnation. These marks will fade more quickly with repeated sessions.
Benefits of cupping and scraping
Among its various upsides, one of the key benefits of cupping is weight loss. In one Japanese study, cupping was found to have helped participants lose weight. It also shrunk the measurements of their arms, wasit and thighs. Another study backed the weight loss results, recommending cupping over even acupuncture.
Other science-backed benefits of cupping and guasha include:
1. Improved mobility
Research published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine compared the effectiveness of scraping to heat packs for treating muscle stiffness. There was evidence that it helped to improve mobility, letting subjects flex, bend and extend their lower backs more easily. Scraping therapy also delivered more pronounced pain relief with longer lasting anti-inflammatory results.
2. Better pain management
Localised muscle pain is a severe problem for many middle-aged people and can significantly hamper day-to-day activities. If you can relate to this and haven’t found a good solution, consider cupping. It’s been demonstrated to be particularly helpful with neck, back and shoulder strain. A study published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences shared that cupping could be more effective than commonly prescribed treatments such as exercise, analgesics and medication. There are no perceivable adverse effects, either. Plus, cupping was shown to enhance the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture.
3. Clearer skin
Thanks to endorsements by facialists, facial scraping tools made from semi-precious stones have flooded the Internet. Fans of facial scraping say the treatment helps to counteract against puffiness, lifting and firming up their features as a whole. You’re not imagining a rosier post-treatment complexion, either. Research proves that guasha does promote micro-circulation, enabling your epidermis to repair itself more effectively. Of course, to avoid injuring your face, it’s always best to leave scraping to the experts.
4. Reduced headaches
One of the most underrated benefits of cupping is its effectiveness for soothing chronic headaches. Research conducted on 70 patients suffering from chronic migraines or headaches found that cupping helped to lighten the intensity of headaches by an impressive 66%. In the study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, patients who underwent cupping also enjoyed 12.6 more headache-free days a month.
5. Faster exercise recovery
The next time you train for a marathon or tournament, or even after a strenuous gym session, consider incorporating scraping therapy into your routine. Scraping can soften the effects of muscle fatigue and speed up recovery. A study on weightlifters revealed that scraping helped to lower their rate of perceived exertion (RPE) score after workouts, meaning they found the exercise less rigorous overall. Additionally, their heart rate variability (HRV) increased as well, signifying an improved resistance to stress and improved cardiovascular health.
6. Lower bad cholesterol levels
When doctors tell you that you need to “watch your cholesterol”, they’re usually referring to your levels of LDL cholesterol. LDL cholesterol buildup in your arteries and veins can lead to all manners of heart disease, including stroke. In one small study, cupping not only helped to suppress LDL levels, but it also increased the amount of HDL cholesterol in the system. As you’ve probably guessed, HDL cholesterol is the good kind that shoos LDL away from where it doesn’t belong.
Lose weight and feel better
If you’re looking to lose weight in a safe, natural manner without the side effects that come with weight loss supplements and replacement diets, consider our signature CSH therapy®.
Using a combination of cupping, scraping and heat treatment, CSH therapy® improves your metabolism over the long run so that your weight not only goes off, but stays off too. Besides 4-6kg of weight loss in 1 month*, many clients report other benefits including better appetite control and better sleep. Read their testimonials here.
*Results vary between individuals.