Senocare India: Cupping Therapy for Headaches: A Natural Approach to Relief

Content is medically reviewed by:

Dr. Shakti Singh


Headaches are a common ailment that can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain with migraine being among the top neurological cause needing medical attention(1). While there are various treatment options available, some people are turning to alternative therapies like cupping therapy to find relief. Cupping therapy, an ancient practice with roots in traditional Chinese medicine, has gained popularity in recent years for its potential benefits in managing headaches. In this article, we will explore what cupping therapy is, how it works, and its potential effectiveness in alleviating headaches.

Understanding Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy involves placing cups on the skin’s surface to create a vacuum or suction effect. This technique is designed to increase blood flow, stimulate the body’s natural healing processes, and release tension in the muscles and tissues. While cupping therapy is often associated with pain relief, it has also been explored as a potential solution for managing headaches.

Different types of Cupping Therapy:

Cupping therapy can be performed in various ways, including:

1.Dry Cupping: In dry cupping, a practitioner places cups on specific areas of the body without any prior lubrication. The vacuum effect is created by heating the cups or using a mechanical suction device.

2.Wet Cupping/Hijama/bleeding : Wet cupping involves making small incisions on the skin before applying the cups. This method is believed to draw out impurities or “bad blood” from the body.

3.Fire Cupping: Fire cupping is a traditional method where a cotton ball soaked in alcohol is ignited and briefly placed inside the cup before being removed and quickly placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates suction.

4. Oil Cupping: Here cups are gradually slides over the oiled area on the body. Lubrication is provided using massage oils.

The Potential Benefits of Cupping Therapy for Headaches

While research on the effectiveness of cupping therapy for headaches is limited, some anecdotal evidence and studies suggest potential benefits:

1.  Improved Blood Flow: Cupping therapy is believed to enhance blood circulation, which can help alleviate tension and promote relaxation in the head and neck muscles. Improved blood flow may also aid in the delivery of essential nutrients to the brain.

2.  Muscle Relaxation: The suction created by cupping can release muscle knots and tension, which are common contributors to tension headaches.

3.  Stress Reduction: Cupping therapy is known for its relaxation effects, which can reduce stress and tension, both of which are common triggers for headaches.

4.  Detoxification: Some proponents of cupping therapy argue that it can help eliminate toxins from the body, potentially reducing the frequency and severity of headaches.

5.  Enhancing Lymphatic Function: Cupping therapy may stimulate the lymphatic system, helping to remove waste products and reduce inflammation, which can contribute to headache pain.

How is it performed?

The following steps are performed:

1.   Skin preparation: the affected area is exposed and the skin is sterilised. In some cases moisturiser or oil might be applied for lubrication

2.   Application of cups: The patient lays down on his/ stomach. In some cases legs might be raised up to avoid hypotension. The cup usually 100ml is placed on the back cup with the help of a manual suction pump. The cups are placed at five sites in the interscapular area including the seventh cervical vertebra, bilateral peri-spinal regions of the neck, and thoracic spine(2).

3.   Creating Suction:suction is created using the pump or heat. You’ll feel the skin being drawn into the cup as it creates suction. The sensation is gentle and not painful. The cups are left in place for 5 to 10 minutes. For a more comprehensive treatment, the cups are moved gently in a gliding or circular motion.

4.   Removing the Cups: To remove the cups, the suction is released by pressing the valve or releasing the bulb’s pressure.

Post-Cupping Care

After your cupping therapy session, take the following steps for post-care:

1. Rest: Allow yourself to rest and relax for a while. Hydrate with water to help flush out toxins released during the session.

2. Avoid Sun Exposure: The cupped areas may be more sensitive to sunlight, so it’s advisable to avoid direct sun exposure for a few hours.

3. Clean the Cups: Wash the cups thoroughly with soap and water and store them in a clean, dry place for future use.

Studies on Cupping Therapy and Headaches

While there is a lack of large-scale clinical trials on cupping therapy specifically for headaches, some smaller studies and anecdotal reports have shown promise:

1.  A 2021 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine found that wet cupping therapy was effective in reducing severity of headaches.(2)

2.  Another 2021 review article published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM) reported that when compared to drugs, wet cupping showed a higher total effective rate along with dry Cupping plus acupuncture in reducing headaches(3).

3.  A 2008 study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine noted that cupping therapy not only decreased the severity of headaches but also lead to decreased frequency.(4)

Safety and Precautions

While cupping therapy is generally considered safe, it’s essential to take precautions:

1.  Seek a Qualified Practitioner: Ensure that your cupping therapist is trained and experienced in the practice to minimize the risk of complications.

2.  Avoid Broken Skin: Cupping should not be performed on broken, irritated, or sunburned skin.

3.  Bruising and Discomfort: Temporary bruising and mild discomfort are common side effects of cupping therapy.

4.  Hydration: Stay well-hydrated after cupping to help your body flush out any toxins that may be released.

5.  Consult a Healthcare Professional: Before trying cupping therapy, especially if you have underlying medical conditions, consult with your healthcare provider.


Cupping therapy is an ancient practice that holds promise as a natural approach to managing headaches. While the scientific evidence is still evolving, many individuals report experiencing relief from headache symptoms through cupping therapy. It’s essential to approach cupping therapy with caution, consult with a qualified practitioner, and maintain open communication with your healthcare provider.

As with any complementary or alternative therapy, what works best for one person may not work for another. If you are considering cupping therapy for your headaches, it’s essential to do your research, consult with healthcare professionals, and make informed decisions about your health and well-being. While cupping therapy may not be a guaranteed cure, it has the potential to be a valuable tool in your headache management toolkit, offering a holistic and natural approach to relief.


Kaki A, Sawsan R, Samiha M, Al Jaouni S, Elalah MA, Ibrahim N. Wet Cupping Reduces Pain and Improves Health-related Quality of Life Among Patients with Migraine: A Prospective Observational Study. Oman Med J. 2019 Mar;34(2):105-109. doi: 10.5001/omj.2019.21. PMID: 30918603; PMCID: PMC6425047.

2.  Abdulah DM, Mohammedsadiq HA, Mohammed AH. Effectiveness of wet cupping therapy on relieving pain in patients with chronic migraine: an observational study. J Complement Integr Med. 2021 Apr 1;18(3):569-577. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2020-0183. PMID: 33793142.

3.  Jihye Seo, Hongmin Chu, Cheol-Hyun Kim, Kang-Keyng Sung, Sangkwan Lee, "Cupping Therapy for Migraine: A PRISMA-Compliant Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2021, Article ID 7582581, 9 pages, 2021.

4.  Ahmadi A, Schwebel DC, Rezaei M. The efficacy of wet-cupping in the treatment of tension and migraine headache. Am J Chin Med. 2008;36(1):37-44. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X08005564. PMID: 18306448.

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