Cupping in Europe and the Middle East grew from , a belief dating to the ancient Greeks which supposed temperament and health were related to the balance or imbalance of four "humors" in the body: blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile. This system was adopted widely by ancient European and Middle-East cultures. Applying hot cups to the body aided bloodletting, removing an excess of blood and purportedly returning the body to health. Humoral medicine encountered a brief revival in European medicine in the 18th and 19th centuries, and cupping was widely used in this practice.
In the late 20th century, cupping has gained a second wind as a for a variety of ailments.
A vacuum is created by air heated by fire in a glass cup placed flush against the patient's skin. As the air cools in the cup, a vacuum forms that pulls up on the skin, stimulating the acupressure effect.
The cups are roughly bell shaped with a capacity of about 4 fluid ounces. 8 to 12 cups are applied to the subject's back in two parallel 'vertical' columns, midway between the spine and each edge of the body; cups within each column are placed four inches apart measured from the center of the cup.
There are several ways of heating the air in the cup with fire:
#One can swab rubbing alcohol into the bottom of a cup, then light it and place the cup immediately against the skin. The seal thus created extinguishes the fire by cutting off its oxygen supply, preventing the person from being burned. The smaller the amount of alcohol, and the quicker the flame is extinguished by application of the cup, the better, so long as there is no risk of the cups falling off due to lack of a proper seal. Some experienced cuppers prefer the use of kerosene over alcohol, claiming it provides better ignition and thus greater suction.
#One can hold the cup inverted over a flame , heating the air within it, then place the cup against the skin. Care must be taken not to heat the glass itself. Even so, the person to whom the cup is applied will feel distinctly more heat than in the previous method.
#One can ignite a flame with a small alcohol-soaked cotton wad resting on a small pad of leather or other insulating material that rests directly on the patient's skin, then place the cup immediately over the flame, putting out the fire. The quickness with which the flame is extinguished depends on the size and shape of the cup.
#One can place the cup on the skin and gently heat the bottom of the cup with a flame heating the air inside, whilst leaving a small gap to allow air to escape. When the air is heated sufficiently, the gap is closed and the air is allowed to cool.
Methods 1 and 2 heat the glass to some extent and have a risk of burning the patient if not carefully executed. Method 3 risks the cotton falling off the insulating pad onto the patient's skin, and leaves the pad and cotton wadding inside the adhering cup which could be considered cumbersome.
Baby oil massaged onto the skin prior to treatment causes a better seal to form, making it possible to use this therapy with less heating of the cup. It is often possible to slide the adhered cup around on the skin, preserving the suction seal as it glides. Care must be taken not to move the cup over protruding , skin tags, scabs, etc.
The longer a cup is left on, the more of a circular mark is created. The skin pores are more open, and the patient may experience a sensation similar to sunburn. An application of about 20 minutes is average, for the back; however this varies with the individual. In no case should the cups be left in place if the subject reports noticeable discomfort.
According to the American Cancer Society, "vailable scientific evidence does not support cupping as a cure for cancer or any other disease". It can leave temporary unsightly marks on the skin and there is also a small risk of burns. Persons who claim this therapy to be beneficial report that it produces feeling of relaxation and invigoration. It is possible that whatever relief is obtained from this procedure derives from the same principles that are employed in shiatsu massage, where instead of the outward sucking of the cups, strong inward pressure is directed at the muscles of the ribcage and abdomen.
In this alternative form of bloodletting, also called blood cupping, a small scratch or incision is made with a lancet prior to the cupping, and the pressure difference extracts blood from the skin. uses this technique - called in ''hijamah'' or ''hijama'' - with a number of hadith supporting its recommendation and use by Muhammad.
The ''hijama'' method cautions against over cupping, cupping in the lying down position and sleeping or resting following any cupping procedure, claiming that the one real danger of cupping is the potential risk of blood clotting following a procedure. Patients should take a brisk thirty minute walk following any cupping treatment. When properly performed, using tiny incisions and not leaving the cups on longer than necessary, cupping leaves no marks or scarring.
While the history of wet cupping may date back thousands of years, the first documented uses are found in the teachings of Muhammad. According to Imams , and , Muhammad approved of the Hijama treatment. This treatment was usually recommended for headache or leg aches. Muhammad himself underwent Hijama for his lumbar pains.