Traditional healers have long recognized the association between pain and conditions of congestion, stagnation, and blockage. An old Chinese medical maxim states:
Where there’s stagnation, there will be a pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.
Not only pain, but the vast majority of all illness and disease comes from stagnation, congestion, and blockage – of energy, like the Vital Force, or of vital fluids or humor, like blood, phlegm, or lymph. The suction applied by cupping sucks out and breaks up that congestion, stagnation, or blockage, restoring a free flow to the vital energies and humor of the organism.
Actually, pain is the essence of disease. Suffering, or disease, is experienced when things aren’t flowing right and when there’s some difficulty or obstruction to the natural flow and functioning of the body. This is what Galen meant when he spoke of disease as being the state contrary to Nature.
In addition to dispersing and breaking up stagnation and congestion in the flow of the Vital Forces, blood, and other humor, cupping also disperses pathogenic heat, toxins and inflammation by bringing them to the surface for release. Pathogenic heat and toxins can fester and eat away at the organism when they’re submerged and under pressure, but they find release at the surface. Cupping can even be instrumental in mitigating or relieving fevers in the acute crisis stage, and in mitigating and reducing the putrefaction of blood and other humor, a common cause of fevers.
By drawing congested energy, blood, or other humor to the surface, cupping is a form of derivation therapy. Derivation means the drawing away or diversion of vital energies or substances away from the site of blockage and obstruction in order to relieve congestion and restore health and patency to the organism.
Toxins, morbid humor, and other congested offending matter can do more harm when they’re deep within the organism, obstructing the functioning of the vital organs at the body’s core. The organism, whenever it can, will try to peripheralize such morbid matter by sending it to the service in the form of various cysts, boils or eruptions, even though they may be unsightly. Cupping is a way of activating this peripheralization and relieving pathogenic congestion to the internal organs, thus averting or preventing more serious disorders.
By improving the circulation of blood, lymph, and other vital fluids and breaking up and dispersing blockages and congestions of offending waste matter, toxins, and morbid humor, cupping improves the eliminative functions and the evacuation of wastes from the organism. In Greek Medicine, the proper and timely evacuation of wastes from the body forms an important aspect of hygiene. Whether it be constipation, urinary retention, or even suppressed menses, the undue retention of anything that should be expelled is a major cause of morbidity and disease.