WHAT DO THE MARKINGS OF CUPPING MEAN?
First of all, the marks are NOT bruises. Bruises are areas where the blood has left the vessel because the vessel has been crushed or torn. The ‘frank’ blood has escaped into the surrounding tissues. “Frank” blood is blood that is liquid red. Nothing special.
In the more holistic forms of health care we have four examination points to consider to get a whole picture of the patient’s overall health. In more focal techniques that are used in hospitals and ‘Western’ medical offices they usually rely of only the main complaint. Most of these were developed thousands of years ago before x-ray or MRIs became even a dream. The four diagnoses are; looking, listening, smelling/tasting, and touching (palpation).
The looking diagnosis is used here in the cupping technique because we need to see the marks left by the cups to determine how much stagnation there is. Looking diagnosis takes into consideration the skin, eyes, hair, tongue, tone and color of the lips etc. These can give a good indication of how healthy the person is generally. However, people that use many products such as hair gels, conditioners, makeup, cover-ups and such can be more difficult to diagnose correctly. To use looking diagnosis on a patient beforehand we hope to determine the following. Skin tone and color, determine if the skin is too dry, or there are mottled portions (colored patterns) also look for moles, skin tags, scars and the like. These can determine changes in the cupping technique, placement or time of treatment.
Listening diagnosis: Not only listening to the patient as to why they are getting cupping it is important to know their expectations of what they think it will do for them. Also the tone and volume of voice can indicate other issues such as weakness, nervousness, etc. In traditional Chinese theory as well as Ayurveda certain sounds relate to specific organs or energy centers.
Smelling and tasting of a patient is rather weird, but having that knowledge can help you determine other factors of the health and dis-ease processes of the patient. Here, with cupping we do not need to smell or taste anything. The practitioners of old would smell breath, urine, taste skin etc to find core causes of disease.
Felling diagnosis is also called palpation. We will use this to feel for very tight areas and how loose or tight the tissue is we are cupping on. In traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture practice we use the pulse to determine problems. In cupping you can use touch to find where to put the cups, where to avoid putting them (like on boney areas) and the like.
So now that you have completed cupping on a person you see a variation of colors, textures and other ‘signs’ what do they mean?
The first spot. Darkened purple to almost black spot. This is a severe stagnation sign and there is good chance that the toxins have now been released for the body to process. It is the most desirable sign in cupping. It means you have gotten much of that dark, stagnant blood up to the surface. We will recheck each three or four days until there are not any more spots to do. We try to give at least five days for each spot to completely ‘heal’, although some bilirubin signs may remain for up to two weeks. This is also a sign that the overall system is challenged.
The second: Moderate stagnation: This is a more red than purple spot. A good sign toxins have been released as well, but they were not as stagnant as long. You may notice this after a couple sessions on the same person. It means you have gotten some of that deep dark stagnant blood to the surface. It may mean you only have a few more treatments before you are ‘clear’. There may be blisters or clear fluid as well. This level would require some visits to clear out. I usually suggest after the first visit to wait five days and then do another session. The spots will generally turn a yellowish green as the bilirubin of that stagnant blood is processed.
The third: ‘Healthy’ do not be fooled by this. Look carefully. You may have not put the cups on strong enough or left them on for enough time, although it can be seen on someone who has a healthy system and who is releasing toxins effectively. Still this therapy can help them ‘stay on top’ of it. Sometimes the client is too dehydrated to have cupping do anything. Sometimes they are too tight.
Massage and heat before cupping will help this open up.
The fourth: Spotted with pink to lavender background. Lots of congestion and toxins that are having a hard time moving. This can be painful even. Consider heat with or before cupping to help them release toxins. The tissues are too tight to release the stagnant dark blood but you have managed to pull some of it forward. The background may be a greenish lavender color. These people need lots of work.
The fifth: Lavender to yellow appearance. This is the worst case as it usually means (traditionally) that there is a nerve or bone problem. A sign of severe stagnation that cannot be released yet. This sign is not good and luckily not too common. I have found it in people with very chronic diseases that are usually on significant amounts of prescription medication. There are other treatments that will help these people become more comfortable and stable before more treatment. Remember, cupping is no silver bullet; however it is a great tool and will help the body regain homeostasis.
Sixth: Blisters, you may see water filled blisters and no other redness under the cup. This is a different kind of stagnation bordering on outright dryness. Think of a river bed. It is not wet enough to be muddy, but if you pick up dirt and squeeze it, water may come out. The patient needs much more fluid and fluid movement. Treat as much as you can, even daily. Best to release the fluid if the blisters are big, and cover. Continue treatment after the blisters have healed. Make sure the patient does lots of hydration (in and out) before next treatment. They may benefit more from massage therapy.
Seventh: Redness around the cups. This is from a histamine response. These people may have allergies or some form of autoimmune disorder. Other than that, any of the above can occur. They may have itchiness after treatment. Itchiness is a histamine reaction and goes away quickly. If the histamine reaction (a reddish halo) is large, it can be an indicator that the body is already in an inflammatory response somewhere (or everywhere). If it does not show it could be normal for darker skin or show that the histamine reaction is too slow. People that take antihistamines may show no halo. Remember, the interior of the circle will be any of the above possibilities.
Here we see a different pattern with a normal treatment time. The inner area of the circle is somewhere between moderate to normal in appearance, it may even have some lavender look to it. However, on the outer rim is a halo of moderate to severe stagnation. This is mostly due to tightness of the tissue as when the patient is over stressed, poorly hydrated, or needs more treatments. Occasionally the center will look lavender or dark only to disappear when the cups are removed. This is a deeper set of toxins and will take longer to get the desired result.
Note: People with very dark skin will show up differently. Be observant and watch for the same signs but in darker colors. Try not to be fooled by those of more olive skin, they can frequently show greenish or yellowing which is not Jaundice or anything to be concerned with.