Cupping has been used in China since the third century B.C. It involves lighting a match in a small, rounded "cup", made of glass, bamboo, metal, or pottery, and then removing it quickly and applying the cup to the skin. The flame creates a vacuum, and the cup sticks tightly to the skin. Several cups may be applied at any one time to a particular part of the body such as the back.
The jars are left in position for 10 to 15 minutes while the vacuum inside the cup produces strong suction on the skin and increases the blood flow and circulation. The cup is releases by pressing the skin next to the edge of the cup so that the vacuum is broken.
Cupping is particularly helpful for conditions such as rheumatism, lumbago, and stiff neck and shoulders as it increases circulation and the mobility of affected areas.