Cupping therapy is a traditional therapy that has been employed worldwide for thousands of years.
The oldest mention of this treatment is in an ancient Egyptian papyrus. It was promoted by famous ancient physicians, such as Hippocrates and Galen, for a variety of conditions. Various forms of cupping were used effectively in western medicine until the early 1900s.
Though cupping therapy in modern times is most often used for pain control, it has been traditionally recommended for local and systemic inflammatory conditions and internal organ disorders. In ancient medical writings, there was almost no condition for which cupping was not considered appropriate treatment. By the late 1800s, cupping in Europe lessened in popularity and was discredited by the newly established scientific model of medicine.
As the progress in the field of medicine continued in the 19th and 20th centuries with the advancement in surgical procedures, new vaccines, antibiotics, blood transfusions, and discovery of hormones and new drugs, cupping therapy gradually became reduced to a mere curiosity of the past.
Cupping therapy recently caught people’s attention when elite athletes like Michael Phelps, Natalie Coughlin, and gymnasts put cupping in national headlines during the Summer Olympics in Rio. In interviews, these athletes claimed cupping therapy provided effective relief from the muscles and joint soreness that is associated with their respective sports and speedier recovery from injuries. Since the 2016 Olympics, cupping therapy is becoming increasingly popular.
Currently, a substantial number of integrative medicine practitioners, acupuncturists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists incorporate cupping therapy into their practices and are rediscovering many benefits of the ancient therapy.
Although over 200 randomized controlled trials on cupping have been published since 1992, the mechanism of action of cupping therapy is still not fully understood. Most likely, no single theory can explain the whole effects of cupping.
In my book, Modern and Ancient Cupping Therapy, I discuss both traditional explanations of how cupping therapy benefits a patient’s health and explore scientific mechanisms of cupping from modern medicine perspective. Most likely, the theories mentioned in the book may overlap and may have been interacting harmoniously to produce the beneficial effects of cupping in treating patients with various diseases and promoting wellbeing in healthy people. I also introduce modified fire wet and dry cupping techniques originally discovered and practiced by my father, Dr. Byung Kyu Park, since the 1970s.