Cupping is a therapy designed to stimulate the flow of qi and blood within the superficial muscle layers. It is used for sore muscles, tension, neck pain, speeding up muscle recovery time, and even the common cold. In Chinese Medicine, pain is caused by problems relating to decreased circulation of qi and blood. This can be related to stress, hormonal imbalances, over-training at the gym, and temperature fluctuations in the muscles and joints. The easiest way to understand cupping is the "inverse" of a massage.
Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently glided across the skin or left stationary. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage - rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and tension relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.