Cupping is an ancient technique of applying heated vessels to the skin. Believed to cure internal disorders, it was commonly used the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Africa, as well as by traditional Asian healers. The Chinese applied hollowed-out animal horns to the skin, sucked the air out of the horn and then blocked the opening with one finger. The age-old technique has been rediscovered in the twentieth century. Today, small vessels made of glass, metal or wood are warmed and the vessel opening is placed against specific skin zones - reflex zones - usually on the back, abdomen or legs. Stimulating these zones by drawing blood flow to them in turn stimulates the tissues and internal organs to which the zones are believed to correspond.
Cupping glasses are bell shaped with openings about 1-21/2 inches across.
Before applying a cup to the skin, the practitioner dips a burning cotton
ball in alcohol and briefly holds it in the cupping glass. This creates
a vacuum that causes the glass to adhere to the skin by suction - this
is called fire cupping. In a procedure called bloody cupping, the skin
is scratched with a sterilized lancet before the cups are applied.