Generally, dry and wet cupping are the two main types of cupping therapy. Dry cupping pulls the skin into the cup without scarifications, while in wet cupping the skin is lacerated or punctured with a lancet device so that blood is drawn into the cup. Traditional Chinese dry cupping involves the application of a glass or a bamboo cup on the skin. The suction is created by placing a flame within the glass or bamboo cup for a few seconds to heat the air, then removing the flame, and quickly applying the opening of the cup on the skin. Skin is drawn up into the cup due to the negative pressure created as the air cools.
Similarly, most ancient European practitioners used fire to create negative pressure. “The rarefaction is procured by the introduction of a burning dossil of lint or tow into the cup, which is immediately inverted on the skin.” Some practitioners in Europe used wicks during cupping. The wick is prepared using a coin wrapped in cotton fabric or tow and dipped in oil, and a glass cup is placed over the fire.
The most commonly used modern plastic cups create suction by engaging a hand pump or electric pump directly on the cup and pump out the air inside through an outlet valve attached to the cup. Perhaps this modern plastic cupping idea originated from Demours’ Instrument, developed in the early 19th century for wet cupping therapy. This ancient instrument includes:
“a cupping glass, which is furnished with two tubes; one of them is provided with an instrument for receiving a lancet which instrument passes through the tube situated at the summit of the cupping glass, being firmly grasped in its course by a circle of leather placed at the end of the same tube, and enters into the glass; so that it runs up and down, like a piston of syringe. The other tube is placed on the side of cup, is constructed like a common sucking syringe, through which the air is exhausted from the cupping glass. When this instrument is used, and the turgescence of that portion of the skin which is covered by the cup, appears to be sufficiently great; that is, when the integument and cellular membrane have arisen well into the cup, the lancet above described, is thrust into it the depth that may be desirable.”
The diameter of modern plastic cups varies from 1 inch to 2 inches. Larger diameter plastic massage cups made from Hansol are also available. These plastic cups have many advantages; safe, fast, easy to learn and apply, disposable, and relatively inexpensive. The intensity of negative pressure can also be controlled by the hand or electric pump. Because the mouth or opening of cups are flat, the main drawback of both ancient and modern cups are their inability to place cups on certain non-flat surfaces of the body, such as fingers, toes, face, shoulders, neck, and certain portions of the upper and lower extremities.
Wet cupping involves piercing the skin with a lancet device before applying the cups. Both glass and plastic cups used for dry cupping therapy can be also used for wet cupping. I personally use customized glass cups designed by myself and my father because of the many advantages offered by these cups. As I mentioned in Eohyoel theory, the intensity of negative pressure of modified fire cupping is directly proportional to the volume of the cup and the amount of heat generated by the wick. One main advantage of the custom-designed cups is a wide range of the intensity of negative pressure and different amount of tissue uplifting generated by various sizes of the cups.
Another advantage is the diverse shapes of cups, which have different diameters of flat and concave openings that fit practically any surface of the body. These cups are made from scientific glasses which can withstand 250-degree Fahrenheit of heat during the sterilization process