Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapy making a modern comeback in the Western world.
If you’ve ever seen a picture of someone sporting purplish circular spots on their back that look like bruises, you’ve seen massage cupping.
While the marks look intimidating, it’s just a sensation that takes getting used to but isn’t painful.
Cupping therapy works through suction or vacuuming of a small portion of your back at a time to draw blood and muscle tissue to the surface.
If you suffer from back tension, tightness or pain, poor circulation, low energy levels or inflammatory conditions like gout or arthritis, research indicates that cupping therapy could help.
Keep reading, because this post will give you the full scoop on cupping therapy, whether or not it’s for you and how to go about finding the right cupping set to purchase.
In this article, we’re also going to review the best cupping sets for home use.
What is Cupping Therapy?
In cupping therapy, small glass or silicone cups are placed on the skin of your back that create suction.
Different cupping sets work in different ways.
Some create a vacuum within the cup by means of heat, while others utilize an air pump that you have to squeeze.
In a cupping therapy session, the cups are left on for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes.
In some cupping therapy sessions, the cups are even used in a sliding motion over the back.
Once the cups are removed, the circular marks become apparent.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s said that the darker these marks are, the more toxins and stagnant energy you had in these areas.
The marks typically fade over a period of 3 to 10 days.
How Does Cupping Therapy Work?
The technique was originally developed in Chinese medicine using animal horns to drain pus and blood from boils.
It then developed into a method of expelling stagnant energy, or “chi,” and thereby restoring the natural flow of energy in the body .
Stagnant chi is thought to correspond to poor circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids, and vacuum cupping works by helping to draw toxins from the body and stimulate healing.
The suction breaks up stagnation, releasing the fascia and freeing tight muscles that are hugging onto bone.
Fresh blood then enters the area and helps restore optimal cellular functioning.
It’s well known that applying pressure to tight muscles through massage therapy loosens them and restores blood flow.
Cupping is like an opposing action; it draws the muscles away from the body instead of pushing them into it, but has a similar effect of loosening them.
By creating space between layers of tissue, it helps fluids enter the tissues so that healing can occur and mobility can improve.
That’s why cupping therapy sessions create the satisfying feeling of having had a deep tissue massage.
Is Vacuum Cupping Therapy Right for You?
In general, cupping improves overall health in anyone who tries it because it removes toxins and stimulates the flow of blood and chi, or vital energy.
Vacuum cupping therapy is especially beneficial if you’re dealing with pain, inflammation, stress, anxiety, poor immunity, digestive complaints, insomnia or low energy levels .
For example, one study showed that cupping therapy worked better than progressive muscle relaxation in alleviating neck pain .
Some of the other benefits of cupping are skin firming and toning and the reduction of cellulite.
What to Look for in an Effective Cupping Set
Before you choose a cupping set you may want to consider a few of the following.
Dry Cupping vs. Wet Cupping
It’s good to have the flexibility of a cupping set that enables you to do cupping with (dry cupping) or without oil.
When you use the cups with oil, you can glide them along your skin to promote circulation and “reverse massage” the muscles and fascia.
This style of cupping doesn’t leave marks, but some cups aren’t recommended to use with oil.
Ones that work well with oil give you more options.
Suction is what makes cupping therapy effective, so it’s the most critical aspect that makes or breaks a cupping set.
Great cups have great suction that isn’t hard to achieve and maintain.
The suction may feel uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t be painful. Still, it should be strong enough to leave marks.
Durability can be an issue with cheaper cups, as their suction can wane over time.
To get the most out of your cupping set, you need one that is made with quality materials and designed to withstand many uses.
Ease of Use
Unless your goal is to have the most authentic Chinese cupping therapy set that most closely mimics the traditional therapy with fire and glass, you want a set that’s not just effective, but also makes it easy to use.
If it’s too much of a hassle or struggle to get your cups on, you may not end up using them as much and getting the most out of them.
Easy-to-use cups are ones you can use on your own, without the need for a therapist or friend to help you.
The 7 Best Home Cupping Therapy Sets to Get Started With
In the past, you had to go to a specialist in Chinese medicine or a professional cupping service to have cupping therapy done for you.
Today, there are products you can buy that make it easy for you to benefit from this treatment at home.
Here are 7 of the best cupping sets out there that each have their own unique features and benefits:
1. Edge Cupping Therapy Sets
The cupping therapy set from EDGE is made of 100 per cent pure silicone and features cups that are different sizes for usage on different areas.
The best part about these cups, however, is that they’re DIY friendly, since all you have to do is press them on and the suction is done for you.
There’s no need to heat or pump the cups–just squeeze.
Besides being so user-friendly, they’re also super durable, as they won’t break the way glass cups easily do.
Literally, hundreds of customers have reported that these cups work to alleviate aches and pains.
Some who have tried other sets claim this one is the best.
The only main complaint some users have had with the EDGE cupping cups is that they don’t provide enough suction as glass cups and that the material is too weak to provide therapeutic-grade treatment.
While some users have felt they couldn’t get enough suction, others say these cups leave marks when left on for just a few minutes, indicating they’re probably still doing the job.
Pros: Easy to use, made with non-toxic, durable material, the set comes with different sizes of cups for treating different areas of your body, great price
Cons: The silicone cups may not provide as much suction as glass cups
2. Kangzhu Biomagnetic Set
The Kangzhu cupping biomagnetic chinese set utilizes plastic cups with a hand pump you can attach to each cup one at a time to create suction.
The set is very inexpensive, but the quality of materials suffers.
It’s able to create suction, but users note that the suction wanes or gives out completely over time with regular use because the valves are not durable.
However, if you just want to give cupping therapy a try and want to get started with minimal risk, this is a good option, because it will work.
The cups come in different sizes and feature biomagnetic therapy as an added bonus.
The magnetic needles in the cups (which you can remove if you want) are designed to increase the attraction of toxins to the surface of your skin, where they’re expelled from the body.
Pros: Great price, 12 large and small cupping cups allow you to cover a wide surface area at a time, biomagnetic therapy adds to the detoxifying effect of cupping therapy, hand pump to create suction
Cons: Not durable; suction wears out over time, parts can easily break and replacement parts aren’t included or sold separately
3. IAFORY Premium Cupping Massage Therapy Set
The cupping therapy set from IAFORY isn’t just for your physical health; it’s also geared toward restoring beauty by treating facial skin.
It comes with special small facial cups that reduce wrinkles and age spots by restoring blood flow and optimal health in your skin.
The set also comes with a face brush for promoting microcirculation in your facial skin.
The cups are made of silicone and are easy to use by pushing down on them to create the suction.
Experienced cuppers accustomed to glass cups that suction with the use of pumps and valves claim the suction on these silicone cups aren’t strong enough.
However, users still get results and these do leave the tell-tale cupping marks on your skin.
If you like to use suction cups as a massage tool to roll along your skin instead of leaving them stationary, you won’t be able to with these cups, as the use of oil will damage them.
Pros: Good customer service, includes facial cups for use on your face, comes with a facial brush, you can easily use the cups by pushing into them without the need for other parts
Cons: Not enough suction for higher intensity cupping therapy, can’t use them with oil
4. ACU Glass Cupping Therapy Set
This glass fire cupping therapy set is designed to mimic the traditional Chinese cupping practice more accurately.
Its high-quality materials can potentially last you a lifetime of therapeutic use.
There are many cupping products on the market that have an alternative take on cupping or are designed to make the practice more user-friendly.
But if you want the real deal, this one is for you.
You will have to use fire to create suction in the cups, and the therapy is very intense.
However, it’s very effective in treating pain and providing all the other benefits of cupping therapy.
There’s quite a procedure involved in creating the suction with a lighter and alcohol, but once you get past the learning curve and have some experience with it, you may never turn to any other cupping method.
Pros: Authentic fire cupping set that utilizes fire and glass, high intensity, made with durable, high-quality materials built to last
Cons: Less user-friendly than other types of sets, and the cups easily break if dropped
5. Hansol Cupping Therapy Set
The Hansol cupping therapy cups hold a great suction, but they’re prone to cracking over time, as the plastic they’re made with isn’t durable enough to hold the suction.
Some cups have broken within one or two uses.
Many users find it’s hard to reach for self-application, and there’s no extension tube included to make it easier.
Despite these drawbacks, it gets the job done by providing good suction as the air is pumped out.
While some people may prefer glass because it won’t break from the suction, glass can always break if you drop it, so these plastic cups are a good alternative.
Pros: Good price, the plastic cups acts like glass cups but are less breakable
Cons: No extension tube included for self-application, made of cheap plastic not guaranteed to last
6. Cupping Warehouse Set
This cupping set includes 8 silicone cups of different sizes.
They’re durable and easy to use and clean, and can be applied with oil for gliding along the skin.
You pay a little more for these, but they’re made with quality to last you indefinitely.
The amount of suction is controlled by how much air you squeeze from the cups.
While the manufacturers claim they’re made to be easy for self-use, some users find them hard to seal onto the skin so that the suction can happen when squeezed.
Because there’s no hand pump to remove the air, it’s all up to you to squeeze it out of the cup by compressing it, and it’s hard when placing it on a spot you can only reach with one hand.
That said, most customers have been really happy with the results using this product.
Meanwhile, most of the unhappy purchasers have found that glass cups or cups with pumps work better for them.
Pros: Can be used with oil, durable, easy to clean
Cons: Hard to squeeze the air out, difficult to apply with one hand
7. Bliss Complete Cupping Set
The Bliss complete cupping set is geared toward facial spa treatments, as it includes 4 cups for use on your face to restore your complexion and fight ageing.
Two of these face cups are smaller and designed for use around your eyes.
The other 2 face cups are a bit larger and can be used elsewhere on your face.
The suction is created simply by squeezing, and most people use these cups for gliding along their skin.
It’s easy to do so with these cups, and they can be used with oil or lotion to make it even easier.
If you want a more authentic Chinese cupping therapy experience, this is probably not the set for you.
On the other hand, if you’ve been looking for a product that provides the benefits of cupping for your skin, this set can help you tackle cellulite, wrinkles and more.
Pros: Includes small facial cups, easy to use with oil or lotion for “wet cupping”
Cons: Suction isn’t as strong, only includes 4 body cups and 3 of them are smaller
The Best Cupping Set: Recommendations
The best cupping set on this list is the EDGE cupping set from Lure Essentials.
It’s the silicone variety that creates suction when you squeeze the air out.
It doesn’t require pumps to release the air, and is generally easy to use with one hand.
Besides its quality and durability, we’ve chosen this one as our top pick because it does a great job mimicking the traditional fire and glass cups, and doesn’t have the pitfalls many other silicone cups have.
If you want a more practical alternative to traditional glass cups without missing out on the benefits of authentic Chinese cupping, this is your best option.
Warnings and Best Practices
The safety precautions you need depend on the style of cupping therapy you’re performing.
Obviously, there are some basic safety precautions to take if you are using fire and glass cups, and you should have someone do it for you.
While cupping therapy is safer than it looks, it’s always a good idea to have it done by a professional therapist the first time so you know what to expect, even if you choose to go with silicone or plastic cups.
It’s also wise to get the consent of your doctor if you’re taking any medications or have any skin conditions.
Getting Started with Cupping Therapy
If you’ve never tried cupping therapy before but are interested in natural remedies for pain relief, give cupping a try.
Many people who thought it looked strange or scary at first ended up thrilled they gave it a try.
It loosens muscles and provides myofascial release, rejuvenating the body every time.
If you enjoy a good massage or benefit from using a foam roller, chances are you’ll like cupping therapy.
It’s easy to get started with silicone cups because they’re straightforward to use.