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What Is Fire Cupping?

Dr. Baert often does cupping after  acupuncture as part of a typical acupuncture treatment. It is used to treat chronic pain by intensely increasing blood circulation at the painful spot.  For some people, it can result in a temporary discolouration of the skin (which looks like a bruise, but isn't), which typically heals in about 5 days. As the discolouration heals, most people experience a corresponding decrease in severity of pain along with increased range of motion.

Immediately after cupping has been performed, it is typical to feel less stiffness and less heaviness in the region treated.  When cupping is done over the same area of pain once per week for several weeks, it will no longer be possible to produce the discolouration, and the pain will typically be much less, or even completely gone. 

Cupping Is Not Only Used to Treat Pain

Cupping is also effective for treating asthma and preventing colds from getting worse.  Asthmatic people get great relief when cupping is performed on the upper back, and with regular treatment, along with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, asthmatic symptoms can gradually diminish.   If you get cupping done on your upper back just when you are starting to catch cold, it is often possible to prevent the cold from taking hold, or make it less severe.

How Is Fire Cupping Performed?

An alcohol-soaked cotton ball on forceps is lit on fire and briefly inserted into a round glass cup and then quickly removed before the cup is placed immediately on the skin. The fire burns the oxygen inside the cup and creates a vacuum, which pulls the skin and tissue partially into the cup. The cups are left in place for several minutes, or moved across the skin, in which case oil is applied to the skin beforehand to make it easier to move the cup.  The fire never touches the skin; its purpose is to create the vacuum and to warm the cup prior to placing it on the skin.

The Benefit of Glass Cups Rather Than Silicone or Plastic

Due to the use of fire to create their suction, glass cups become pleasantly warm during cupping, which enhances their ability to improve blood circulation in the region being treated. In contrast, silicon cups create their suction with hand pressure (like a suction cup) and plastic cups are activated with a small hand pump, so neither silicon nor plastic cups become warm. 


Glass cups create much stronger suction than silicon or plastic. Stronger suction typically creates a better therapeutic effect. The amount of suction applied to each cup is always adjusted to suit each person.

Glass cups also have a smooth wide rim which makes them best able to maintain strong suction while being moved across the skin.  Silicon cups can be moved, but it feels rough on the skin and they cannot be moved quickly, which is sometimes necessary to achieve the best effect.  Plastic cups cannot be moved at all or they quickly lose their suction.

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