Here is a demonstration of Chinese medicine cupping to treat low back pain – performed by the author of “Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy”, Ilkay Zihni Chirali. In this video, he is using cups made of glass. Glass cups are probably the most commonly used in this country because they are easy to sterilize and it is easy to see the strength of the suction when applied to the patients skin. In China, bamboo cups are very common because they are inexpensive, but they have some disadvantages. They have sharp edges, break down easily and can be a greater risk for cross-infection.
In both cases, the technique of obtaining suction is the same. A cotton ball is soaked in alcohol and lit. This is used to heat the inside of the cup which removes the oxygen and creates a vacuum. When the cup is placed on the patient, the skin is drawn up into the cup. By placing the cup over an injured area, stagnant blood and toxins are brought to the surface allowing fresh blood to nourish the injured site. Often the skin will be left with circular bruises that may last up to two weeks.
In this particular video, the cups are being placed over specific acupuncture points that have the function of tonifying the Kidney energy – UB23 and DU4. Chronic, dull, low back pain in Chinese medicine is usually associated with deficient Kidney energy. This may be due to the normal aging process, or may be brought on by activities that deplete the Kidney energy, such as excessive overwork, excessive sexual activity, multiple pregnancies, or standing for long periods of time.
Since sexual complaints (impotence and loss of libido) are also closely associated with Kidney energy deficiency, this same treatment can be used to improve sexual function. In terms of western medicine, the nerves of the lumbar vertebrae supply the sex organs and nerve centers in the lower end of the spinal cord are very important in activating an erotic response in the body. When blood flow is increased in this area of the body, sexual function improves.