Cupping Massage Is Dangerous: Myth Or Fact?

Cupping Therapy For Dummies: What You Need To Know!

Are you on Instagram much? If you are, you’re more than likely to have seen images of red, circular, nasty looking welts on the back of some famous celebrity or athlete. Kinda like everything else on Instagram, it makes for an interesting story!

But the thing is it’s really not that interesting at all!

Those bruise like welts you see are the result of the skin being sucked by vacuum cups. It’s really no different than a hickey, or love bite as the British like to call it!

Believe It Or Not, A Suction Cup Is The Reason For Those Welts!
Believe It Or Not, A Suction Cup Is The Reason For All Those Welts!

Why is cupping so popular in 2019 anyways? Are folks just doing it for the 20 second Instagram fame, or are there proven benefits to the therapy?

There is no concrete evidence to prove that cupping is actually beneficial in any way!

The little research that has been done is “wishy washy” if you will, and until further research is done, it’s all speculation. Because cupping was one of the only massages i’d yet to experience, I decided to give it a shot 12 months ago. Here’s what I learned:

It's Mildly Discomforting
But at the same time, the feeling of your skin being sucked is mildly relaxing as well. I don’t expect you to understand this without trying!
The Red Marks!
The red welts you see on those Instagram pics are not an exaggeration. For me, the welts around my back remained “sensitive” for a full week!
I'd Do It Again!
Not because I saw any benefit per say, but more so because the overall experience was different, refreshing, and as mentioned earlier, relaxing.

But are there any negative side effects to cupping? If so what are these dangers?

Well the truth to this is unfortunately yes. As is the case with any massage therapy, cupping does have its associated risks and dangers. More on this below!


3 Dangers Of Cupping Massage You Should Be Aware Of!

Before we look at the 3 dangers of cupping, it’s important to understand that there are different types of cupping, and each type may have it’s own adverse side effects. In the interest of time, I won’t go through all the different types in this post, but you can check out the following article for a more thorough description of the different types.

#1 Risk Of Burns When Doing Fire Cupping

Fire cupping is one of the most oldest forms of cupping, dating back centuries ago. In fire cupping, the practitioner uses a source of fire (usually an alcohol soaked cotton ball) to heat the inside of the cup and create a small suction as a result of the cooling air.

The very obvious danger with fire cupping is the risk of burns to both the patient as well as the practitioner.

It’s a very serious risk, especially when the practitioner lacks the experience and technique required. You always hear about these horror stories in the news! One such incident involves a 34 year old man who whilst undergoing cupping treatment ended up getting burnt on his body after a container of methylated spirits accidentally spilled over. You can read more about it here!

The Biggest Risk To Fire Cupping Is The Possibility Of Burns!
The Biggest Risk To Fire Cupping Is The Possibility Of Burns!

#2 Risk Of Infection When Doing Wet Cupping AKA Hijama

Wet cupping is similar to dry cupping, but with one major difference: blood is drawn by making a small incision to the skin.

Because of the suction pull, it’s common to see pools of blood collecting in the cups.

Wet cupping is incredibly popular in the Muslim world (source: Wikipedia). The biggest danger with wet cupping has to do with the incision. This poses several concerns:

Risk Of Infection
What is being used to make the incision on a patient’s body? If it’s a needle, is it new? If not, has it been sterilized? How has it been sterilized? I don’t think I need to spell out what could go wrong when unsterilized equipment is used to make an incision. All sorts of bad things!
Risk Of Going 'Too Deep'
As far as incisions are concerned, a certain level of care and attention is required. You can’t just randomly pick up a needle, and poke someone in an attempt to draw blood! Doing this can inadvertently cause more damage. After all an incision is a surgical wound!

The above 2 risks are what I consider to be the primary dangers of wet cupping. There are secondary concerns as well. An example of this is post cupping treatment. What happens immediately post therapy?

Does the practitioner clean and seal the wounds with some sort of bandage? Or are the wounds left untreated and open?

Another secondary concern that sort of relates to the risk of infection is whether the practitioner is wearing appropriate protective equipment (gloves, glasses, mask etc.).

This is why I’ve always been more cautious when it comes to wet cupping. With dry cupping you at least know there’s no blood involved, so your health risks are much lower. My advice to you should you choose to take it:

If you decide to try wet cupping, be very very cautious when it comes to selecting an establishment. Pick a reputable establishment that’s aware of the dangers associated with the therapy!

Don’t listen to those who simply brush of the dangers! It’s like getting a tattoo at a parlor where the artists disregard all the associated risks and safety concerns. Would you do it then? If not, then why now!

#3 Risk Of Scarring & Bruising

But isn’t that why all the millennials are trying cupping in the first place!? You got your Instagram pic, but now those pesky bruises won’t go away. To make matters worse, spring break is in a week, and at this rate you’ll never be able to rock that new swimsuit!

Risk #3 is about scarring and bruising. More an annoyance than a risk if anything. But why does this happen? What causes the welts to stay for longer than they should?

Well the truth is no one really knows!

Maybe the marks are a result of doing the therapy for an excessive time frame, or maybe different cupping methods result in different welt marks. It’s all speculation!

The only thing that’s true is that all of our bodies may behave differently.

It may take a person one day for the welt marks to completely disappear, while it may take another person 3 weeks. Same process, same technique, same therapist, but a different outcome because our bodies react differently!

Everyone Heals Differently!
Everyone Heals Differently!


Does This Mean You Should Avoid Cupping Altogether?

Absolutely not! If done properly, cupping is actually safe, and the chances of an accident happening are fairly slim. However, it’s in all of our best interest to take the necessary precautions when fire and blood are involved!

That being said, if you decide to try cupping massage, do your due diligence by only going to an establishment or practitioner that’s trained and knows what they’re doing. And one more thing…’s definitely a good idea to check with your physician before commencing any alternative therapy/treatment. It never hurts!


What About Cupping At Home? What Do You Need To Know?

Cupping at the convenience of your home is definitely an option! There are tons of safe cupping sets you can find online at Amazon. I’ve written an entire post on what you should look for when buying a cupping set. I highly recommend you check it out here!

Dry cupping at home is A-OK! Wet and fire cupping, however, probably something you wanna leave to the experts.


What Should You Do If You Experience Adverse Effects During Cupping?

If you experience negative side effects during or after cupping, seek medical advice immediately. Go and see a doctor and have him/her take a look at it. The worst thing you can do is delay and “sit on it” hoping it’ll improve by itself. I hope you take this advice seriously!


Burning Questions? Leave A Comment Below!

I hope you got some value out of this post. If you did, please consider sharing on the social platforms. Lastly, if you have any questions about cupping that are still unanswered, drop a comment below and i’ll be sure to get you the answer!

About Eve

Just an average bloke intrigued by massage and its incredible benefits. Oh, did I mention I also own a massage chair? More on that in the blog posts!

8 thoughts on “Cupping Massage Is Dangerous: Myth Or Fact?

  1. This honestly sounds like one of those appeal to the ancients therapy ideas, much like Chinese believing ivory has any healing powers or whatever other nonsense.

    This seems if anything, dangerous. Literally just causing bruises for no real reason. If it was relaxing it would be because of placebo expectation due to it being called a therapy practice. If it was used as a weird torture, I don’t think it would feel relaxing because the expectation is different.

    This seems like a useless possibly dangerous practice that isn’t worth anyone’s time or money.

    1. Very nice to hear from you Gracie. I do appreciate you checking out my post and leaving a comment. You make some good points for sure. However, i’m not sure I agree entirely and i’ll share my view as to why. As I mentioned in my post, cupping is surprisingly relaxing! I don’t know if you’ve tried it, but that’s what I thought when I tried it with my massage therapist. I’m not sure the “relaxation” factor can be attributed strictly to placebo. In any case, I don’t know and i’m not claiming to. I like to think people do things because they actually enjoy doing them!

      With respect to your comment around “ancient therapy” I would be a little careful. I don’t know what all works or doesn’t but I think it’s only fair to evaluate something I understand. Just because I don’t understand the science around it doesn’t make it fair for me to claim it’s nonsense. Is cupping dangerous? Sure can’t dispute that there are some dangers associated with it, but if practiced in a safe and controlled environment, the risks and safety concerns are reduced. And that’s basically the gist of what i’m trying to deliver with this post. Thanks so much again for your comment Gracie!

  2. I am a holistic therapist and love cupping. I use a system that is entirely safe and a wonderful way for people to relax and get toxins and adhesions out of the body. When people don’t understand some therapies they poo poo them and that is sad. That is also what some people think about reflexology, reiki, meditation, crystals or sound therapy. When they don’t understand the benefits they think it’s nonsense. I just keep doing what I do and know that it reaches the right people at the right time in their lives. It’s all perfect.

    1. Hi Heather, thanks for reading my blog and sharing a comment!

      Definitely a fair point you make Heather. If there’s one thing I’ve come to learn over the years, it’s to have an open mind when it comes to trying something and to not formulate any judgements before doing so. Personally speaking I’ve found yoga and meditation to be life transforming. In fact, I’ve even written some blog posts on yoga. You should check them out in the “Meditation 101” section of my blog!


  3. I had my first cupping session yesterday for bursitis in my right hip. By the time I got home, I couldn’t walk and my husband had to put me in a wheelchair and wheel me in. After sitting for awhile, I was able to make it upstairs, one step at a time and walk a few steps to the couch. It had relieved my pain but I haven’t been able to walk any distance or stand for any length of time. I had this done at my physical therapy office and girl was a certified to do the cupping. What could have caused a decline in my mobility and do I dare go back for another session? Or should I find a different therapist to do this?

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and dropping a comment, Donna. I sincerely apologize for the super late response! It’s a tough one if I’m honest. One simple question I always ask myself after a massage/cupping/wellness session is how did I feel before, and how do I feel now? If the therapy helped, then I’m usually inclined to go back a second time. If not, I end it there – although I have given second chances a few times.

      You know your body best, Donna – that’s the simple truth. You can seek advice from a therapist, but if you’re in tune with your body, you will understand the language it speaks very easily. It doesn’t take much actually. I hope this helps, and let me know how you progressed over the months! Did you go back? What were the results?

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