As cupping in particular has gained popularity, a common phrase has appeared on the scene called "detox cupping", or "cupping for detox". Cupping therapy has drawn the culture of detox-ers who want to remove all the toxins from their system.

Let's talk about this.

Cupping, by means of applying suction to the body, draws blood and fluids that have been stuck in the deeper tissue up to the skin surface. This is what gives the cupping marks their color. (And in fact, the different colors and marks tell us what's been going on beneath the surface).

The lymphatic system, which is responsible for immune function and fluid circulation throughout the body, lies just beneath the surface of the skin. Cupping gives the lymph system a boost by bringing the old stuff the body no longer needs directly to it to be recycled and removed.

A common phrase that I've heard from patients who use cupping for its detox benefits is,

I had so many toxins that I felt sick after cupping. It was great. It really cleared everything out.

While, sure, you can have a lot of build-up in your body, (the more material you have stuck in your tissue, the darker the cupping marks), let's talk about how this statement isn't entirely correct.

  1. If your body was truly full of toxins, you would already be sick. Your lymph system is not the only system in your body that helps to keep you clean. (This is why I don't recommend sweating as a detox method, either). There are many other systems in place, including your liver and kidneys, which keep the bad stuff from building up. If you had that much toxic waste, you would have been feeling it in other ways first.

  2. Your cupping aftercare, (or lack thereof), likely made you feel sick. The suction that cupping utilizes opens the pores on the skin surface. This helps to regulate fluid circulation while your lymphatic system is kicking into gear.

This also makes you more sensitive to changing temperatures.

One common aftercare suggestion is to stay bundled up and cover your marks. This is because your pores stay open for a little while after cupping, and exposure to old temperatures closes the pores shut and inhibits fluid circulation. This dramatically slows and even stops the lymphatic system from doing its job and can overwhelm your immune system.

After cupping therapy, you still want to treat yourself as if you’ve gotten a deep tissue massage, as both can have a strong effect on your body.

The aftercare that I always recommend to avoid any adverse symptoms from cupping is to:

Stay warm and covered. Keep your pores closed and your body circulating
Stay hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, you have weaker circulation. More fluid means an easier time for your lymphatic system.
Rest. It’s okay to stretch and do gentle movements, but there’s no need to hit the gym right after your treatment. You may feel pretty tired as your body relaxes during and after your treatment, so give yourself a chance to heal.

And of course, ask questions and talk to your practitioner! There may be specific recommendations just for you and your needs.

For more information on cupping and detox, check out these articles:

Cupping Therapy

How Cupping Therapy Enhances The Detoxification Process

Cupping for Deep Tissue Therapy and Lymphatic Drainage