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Vibrating Cupping


An ancient alternative medicine and the novel technique


Dr. Wael Fawzi

May, 2023


Cupping has been one of the most famous traditional therapies used in the East for a long time. It has been used to heal stagnation via motivating the energy circulating, which is known in oriental traditional medicine as Qi. Cupping treatment comprises warming, massaging, cutting (in wet cupping), and positioning the cups on specific points which stimulate the treatment. The vibrating technique improves blood circulation, releases scar tissues and adhesions, promotes mobility, and dredges the channels. Cupping comprises applying a suction or heated cup to evolve a partial vacuum that agglomerates blood and boosts efficient healing. This therapy acquired attention and acceptance as a method that alleviates pain and helps treat sports injuries or even for body relaxation. 

Keywords: Cupping, traditional medicine, vibrating cupping, sciatica, acupuncture



Cupping is one of the most ancient traditional medicines described in traditional medicine books from over 1000 years ago. Also, wet cupping was described under the name of Alabu in Ayurvedic Raktamokshana. While guan zi describes the classic dry cupping or fire cupping, which includes putting the cup on an aching area (Anashi) or the acupuncture point along the meridian of energy (Jadhav, 2018). The cupping practice date started in 3000 BC, and medical books described the cupping practiced by Egyptians and Saharan people. Afterward, the Greeks practiced cupping for structural issues and internal illnesses. Then the Arab scientist adopted, implemented, and developed that science further. Then the books mentioned its use in China and different parts of Asia and Europe by 341 AD. (Jadhav, 2018). Nowadays, several types of cupping are used in clinical practice: empty, needle, wet, water, retained, moxa, and moving cupping (Cao et al., 2010).

Usually, cups are placed on the soreness site or neck, shoulder, and back. Temporary bruises appear after the session, and the patient may feel temporary pain defined via the levels of stagnation and suction degree. The bloodletting type (Hijama), known as wet cupping, successfully removes stagnation and toxin. This therapy is instant, easy (Jadhav, 2018), and doesn’t include chemicals or side effects, so it is becoming very popular.



Types of cupping (materials development)

The treatment type and area impose the cups’ type and material. The cups were developed through the years as they were made from animal horns, clay, or bamboo till they became glass which is the most common type, and the practitioners developed them to be synthesized out of rubber, plastic, and silicon depending on the suction method (Chirali, 1999).

2.1 Dry cupping

The cups are positioned on specific points; suction is being generated via heat, so the air inside the cup evolves vacuum that hauls the skin upwards (Hsu et al., 2013). Some methods use silicone cups for their pliability or glasses with a valve where a suction pump can be connected to pump out trapped air (Dalton & Velasquez, 2017). This method has several advantages, such as being safer for beginner practitioners and enabling the practitioner to control the suction degree.

Many dexterous modifications have been produced, including fire cupping, Acu-cups (massage cupping), Acu-point (vacuum cupping), magnetic cupping, and myofascial cupping (Turk & Allen, 1983). Applying massage oil creates a better seal and maintains the practitioner to glide over the muscles to implement so-called “moving cupping” (Hsu et al., 2013). Dry cupping can be mixed with different forms of treatment, including massage therapy, magnetic cupping, water cupping, or gliding cupping (Dalton & Velasquez, 2017).

2.2 Wet cupping

A scalpel pricks the skin before applying the cup, which stimulates blood to flow from the area under the cup; the more blood is released into the cup, the lower the suction pressure. This method has been applied to dispel internal toxins or, as the TCM calls this technique (cooling inflammatory conditions) (Jadhav, 2018).


It is significant to understand that these methods shall not be painful (Chi et al., 2016); patients may describe some “pinching sensation followed by relaxation” (Dalton & Velasquez, 2017).

Mechanism of cupping therapy

According to TCM practitioners, blood and Qi stagnation are the main reasons for diseases and pain. Hence, cupping stimulates blood and qi circulation in the area that is being treated, alleviating inflammation, soreness, and tension via shallowing the impurities to the surface to facilitate getting rid of the toxins. While the Western point of view, cupping slackens the fascia or the connected tissues and invigorates blood flow to the surface; it relaxes the tissues and enhances cell-to-cell communications. Moreover, cupping demonstrated cardio-protective action in ischemic reperfusion injury (Shekarforoush et al., 2012). Cupping sessions usually take 5-20 minutes, four to six sessions in intervals from 3 to 10 days gaps, depending on the patient's condition.


Cupping is not a fad; during the Olympics and championships, the circles can be easily distinguished on athletes' bodies. Cupping therapy has demonstrated increased blood flow in the desired area via laceration of the capillaries on the body's surface (Jadhav, 2018). Thus, the blood flow to the injured area will increase, bringing more oxygenated blood and nutrients, which will pace the healing process (Cao et al., 2010). Moreover, cupping therapy signifies musculoskeletal conditions such as facial paralysis, fibromyalgia, herpes zoster pain, hypertension, cervical spondylosis, stroke rehabilitation, and neck, shoulder, and back pain (Cao et al., 2010). Previous studies showed that applying acupuncture points in cup placements provides analgesic impact, and the patients described their relief after the treatment, knowing that it has a minor negative side effect (Chi et al., 2016).


Day by day, non-chemical therapies are becoming more popular, and practitioners use primitive methods and never developed any of their techniques due to the scarce studies related to this method. This method enables the practitioner to move blood and the Qi in the muscles, separate the tissues, break down the adhesions, promote circulation, and relieve pain. Thus, this practical study performs a base that can be applied and developed by scholars and practitioners to make cupping a more flexible treatment that can deal with every patient as a particular case that can be studied and used according to the injury, pain, or the patient’s characteristics. This study aims to provide a synopsis of cupping’s effect on the traditional method development, promote its development with a new technique named (Vibrating cupping), and employ this strategy in sciatica treatment.



Sciatic nerve: is a relatively big and long nerve that starts in the lower back and runs through hips, buttocks, legs, and feet. Sciatica can be caused by inflammation, compression, or irritation of the sciatic nerve, which might happen due to herniated disc or disc displacement that compresses the nerve's root. Common causes of sciatica are Herniated disc, Disc displacement, Spinal stenosis, Degeneration in the lumbar vertebrae, Trauma of the sciatic nerve, Piriformis syndrome, Tumors, and cauda equina syndrome.

From the perspective of traditional oriental medicine, sciatica can be caused by: Blood stasis, Qi stagnation, Yen deficiency in the kidney or the liver, Blood deficiency, and Wind-cold- damp obstruction patterns. During the frequent treatment of several cases, it was noticed that many sciatica cases are deeply connected to blood stasis in the piriformis muscle that compresses the sciatic nerve when it gets tight or stiff. Its symptoms include pain, numbness, and weakness in the lower back, hip, and leg. 

In traditional medicine, Acupuncture, massage, and cupping are advised to treat sciatica. However, because the piriformis muscle is relatively deep, it is better to use solid mechanical techniques to move the blood and the Qi.



The practitioner shall massage the patient’s body to define the traumatized areas and apply herbal oils (grapeseed oil, coconut oil & sweet almond oil) on the skin; the cup size is selected according to the treated area; most treatments require two or more cups to be applied concurrently . Glass or plastic cups can be used, but plastic ones are preferred as they can be used with the air pump because it facilitates the process. The pump enables the practitioner to control the amount of the sucked air.

Cups are being placed on points: GB-30 and BL-36. And we can make some other points according to the size of the muscles. Then, moving in a vertical vibrating movement starts slowly and speeds up gradually. This process can push the blood and the qi in the muscles, separate the tissues, help break down the adhesions, promote circulation, and relieve pain. Placing cups on the glutes and vibrating them can be very effective for sciatica.


If the patient does not respond appropriately to acupuncture, we can use the vibrating cupping technique because, as mentioned before, it moves the blood and the Qi. Moreover, acupressure on some points of the bladder and the gallbladder channels can be performed on the legs, hips, and lower back as a complementing process to activate the treatment.


After some sessions (varies according to patient condition), it can be noticed that:

  1. The soft tissues are more vital and resilient.

  2. Stiffness and tightness in the muscles are less.

  3. The patient has more relief and less pain.

Results and discussion


Cupping is an effective treatment for various conventional conditions; it also assists in maintaining overall health. It is expected that apt nutrition and exercise followed by cupping sessions offer relaxation and keep the body healthy. Thus, cupping can be applied monthly or supplement other detoxification programs.
A group of 82 patients residing in Canada, BC, and having sciatic pain for an average of 8 months were subjected to vibrating cupping with an average of 6 sessions per patient. 


      1. The pain was assessed on a numeric pain rating scale (NPRS). The results show that 90% relief in pain was observed in 27 percent of patients. 18 percent of patients experienced 75% relief. 13 percent of patients experienced 60% relief. 26 percent of patients experienced 50% relief. Sixteen percent of patients experienced 35% relief.

Most patients subjected to vibrating cupping had tried different treatment modalities like physiotherapy, massage therapy, and chiropractic, but the patients reported no improvement.

Some patients were taking medication (painkillers, anti-inflammatory, Gabapentin) regularly, and some were waiting for surgery. However, vibrating cupping was very effective in most patients experiencing severe sciatic pain due to herniation at L4/L5 vertebrae or piriformis syndrome. This might be due to the benefits of vibrating cupping, which can be listed as:


  • Improve blood circulation.

  • Removal of congested blood

  • Dredge the channels of energy. 

  • Help break down the adhesions and the scar tissues.

  • Speed up the metabolic processes.

  • Reduce inflammation.


All that mentioned above can cause relief, and this technique seems to restore the normal function of the muscles and that, in turn, help correct the positions of the vertebrae.

The mobility was also much better after vibrating cupping. No side effects were reported after the treatment.


Many patients stopped taking medication after the treatment.




Vibrating cupping was very effective in relieving sciatic pain without causing any adverse effects. Hence, it may highly be recommended for patients suffering from sciatica to avoid the adverse effects of the medication, and it might be a better choice to avoid surgery.


Conflict of interest:


The author has not received any financial assistance from any organization, and there is no conflict of interest to declare.




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Dr. Wael Fawzi

Dr. Wael Fawzi graduated from Oshio college of Acupuncture and Herbology in Canada in 2013.

He received a diploma of Doctor of Acupuncture from the Indian Academy of Acupuncture Science in 2009, and he also received a membership from that academy.

He is practicing Acupuncture in BC, Canada and he also teaches international students Acupuncture, Cupping and Tui Na.

Dr. Wael is studying Herbal medicine at the Pacific Rim College, Canada.

He is an expert in Quantum Therapy, Low level Laser Therapy, EHF Therapy (Extremely High Frequency Therapy), and Electro- Pulse & Air-Ions Therapy. 

Dr. Wael is also interested in using technology for the visualization of acupuncture points.

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