You’re probably aware of the biggest side effect: massive, purple bruises. “The bruises are formed from bursting capillaries from the suction which causes pooling of the blood under the cup, creating the characteristic bruise,” says Dr. Danesh. They typically resolve in three to five days.
What’s more, if the cups are left on the skin for too long, it can create blistering that can open the skin, says Starkey. (Fair warning, if you Google cupping injuries, the results aren’t pretty.) Other side effects may include soreness, discomfort, burns, and skin infections, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
What’s more, people with diabetes and other blood circulation disorders should be cautious, and if you’re on blood thinners or another anticoagulant, you should not do cupping. “We also evaluate the integrity of the patient’s skin. If the skin is too thin or has damage, the patient is not suitable for cupping treatments,” says Starkey.
So, should you try cupping therapy?
While the scientific validation isn’t quite there, there may be a placebo effect. “The science may not suggest that it is effective, but it’s hard to argue with people that are perceiving benefits,” says Johnson. Still, he doesn’t use traditional cupping therapy in his practice at Johns Hopkins.
“Instead, we use a computer-controlled kind of cupping, the negative pressure FDA-approved device LymphaTouch. We turn the pressure on for about 2.5 seconds, and it creates a type of pulsing that has very similar benefits to cupping without damaging the tissue,” he says.
But if you’re curious to try traditional cupping, it’s important to seek a trained (and certified) professional, such as a physical therapist, acupuncturist, or chiropractor.
“You want to avoid going to someone doesn’t have proper training or certification. You can check your provider’s information on the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s website,” says Starkey.
Emily Shiffer Emily Shiffer is a former digital web producer for Men’s Health and Prevention, and is currently a freelancer writer specializing in health, weight loss, and fitness.