An 8-piece set of sturdy silicone cups that come in various sizes and can be squeezed at different levels. Thick construction creates deep suction. Clear design makes tissue highly visible. No byproducts used.
Because of thick material, cups may be difficult to manipulate.
A 17-piece set of plastic cups in different sizes. Easy to use and easy to clean. Includes hand pump and carrying case. Also comes in different sets with varying quantities of cups.
A couple of users prefer glass cups over plastic.
A 4-piece set of strong, durable silicone cups in different sizes. Easy to use. Trusted and used by therapists. Free of plastics, BPA, BPS, phthalates, PVC, latex, or other fillers. Available in blue, green, or clear.
A few users noted sharp edges.
A 7-piece set of clear silicone cups that is trusted by healthcare experts to provide professional-quality care. Durable and elastic. Free of harmful additives.
A few users noted suction was not satisfactory.
A 12-piece set of glass cups with thick construction and smooth, flat rims on both ends to increase comfort and maintain suction. Uses traditional Chinese fire cupping as a form of deep tissue massage. Instructional video by licensed therapist and ebook included.
A couple of users noted glass is heavy.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Cupping is an ancient healing tradition that has become visible in recent years with Olympic athletes and Hollywood celebrities sporting telltale circular bruises on their backs. This alternative medicine practice is generally performed by a licensed acupuncturist who applies specially designed cups to the skin to create suction. Inside the vacuum of the cup, skin rises and reddens with increased blood flow. After five to 20 minutes, the cup is removed, often leaving a circular bruise in its wake.
Why in the world would anyone would do this? Cupping practitioners and devotees say it may draw toxins from the body and that it relieves muscle pain in a similar fashion to getting a deep tissue massage. Increased circulation to a specific area potentially provides healing benefits, and believe it or not, cupping can be a relaxing process.
Cupping is an ancient healing tradition dating back some 3,000 years to societies in Egypt, the Middle East, and China. While there isn’t solid scientific research to back the health claims of cupping, proponents of the practice maintain the following health and wellness benefits.
Improved circulation: Increasing blood flow to a particular area promotes healing.
Pain relief: Cupping may be especially helpful in treating muscle tension and spasms.
Relaxation: The effect is quite like that of a massage.
Respiratory help: When cups are placed near the lung area, the process may help break up congestion and phlegm.
Digestive help: By increasing mobility in the abdomen, cupping may help relieve digestive troubles.
Dry cupping: In dry cupping, the cup is typically placed in one area and remains there for as little as three minutes or as much as 20 or even 30 minutes.
Moving cupping: This method is also known as “sliding” cupping. Oil is applied to the skin, and the cup is continuously glided over a larger area. This is particularly helpful in relieving muscle tightness and is similar to a deep tissue massage.
Needle cupping: In needle cupping, an acupuncture needle is inserted into a specific acupuncture point. Then, a cup is placed over it.
Wet/bleeding cupping: First, a cup is placed to create suction. The practitioner then removes the cup and makes small incisions in the skin, followed by a second cup to draw out a small amount of blood. This is thought to remove toxins.
Flash cupping: The practitioner quickly attaches and removes the cups repeatedly to an area.
The cups used by western practitioners are generally made of glass. Cupping sets that are available for consumer purchase are plastic, typically silicone. Glass and silicone cups are shaped more like bell jars than drinking cups (apart from plastic cups with manual suction).
There are also some “traditional” cups available that are made from bamboo or earthenware.
There are a few techniques of creating the necessary vacuum inside a cupping cup.
A technique that involves heat is known as “fire cupping.” In this method, a cotton pad is soaked in alcohol and lit on fire. A glass cup is placed over it, extinguishing the flame. It is then placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum.
Plastic cups do not require fire to create a vacuum. Instead, a suction gun, or pistol-grip hand pump, may be used to create a vacuum. Alternatively, a suction cup method might be used in which suction is manually created by squeezing the closed end of the cup.
An at-home cupping set may use either of these non-heat methods.
Some cupping sets come with removable magnetic points. The points are inserted into the cup and exert magnetic force on acupuncture points. This serves as a nice alternative to the “needling” cupping method.
Cupping sets come with multiple sizes of cups. A small cup may have a 0.7-inch diameter, whereas an extra-large cup may have a 2.7-inch diameter. There are different sizes in between these two extremes as well. A larger size is appropriate for a larger surface area, like the back. A smaller size may be used for a smaller area, like the neck.
The largest cupping sets have 24 pieces. The smallest sets come with just four cups. The number of cups you purchase will affect price, as will a few other factors.
Keeping in mind that the average cost of a cupping session with a practitioner is $40 to $80, a one-time purchase of a cupping set — even a high-priced set — is a steal.
A professional kit made from high-quality polycarbonate or glass starts at $80 and can cost up to $240. There are also professional-grade plastic cupping sets for as low as $60.
For the person looking to try cupping at home, there are plenty of lower-cost options. The best suction-cup style cupping kits made from silicone run as high as $50. For a set with a lower count, you can expect to pay half that price. Cupping sets that come with a suction gun tend to come with a cup count in the teens or twenties. These range in price from $20 to $35.
Q. What is the difference between acupuncture and cupping?
A. Both are methods used in Chinese medicine. Both draw energy (qi) and blood flow from parts of the body, and both dispel stagnation, which is believed to cause illness and disease. However, acupuncture uses needles to improve circulation and energy movement in the body, whereas cupping uses cups to do so (except for needle cupping). Acupuncture needles pierce the skin; most cupping methods do not penetrate the skin. Both, however, use placement along the “meridian lines,” which are an intricate network of energy pathways.
Q. Who is cupping for?
A. Cupping benefits adults who experience chronic pain, such as neck or back pain. It may also be beneficial for athletes who overwork their muscles, asthmatics and those suffering from the common cold with cough, and people experiencing a myriad of other conditions: headaches, dizziness, anxiety, digestive issues, fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cellulite. Some report an “emotional” release from the process, or deep relaxation. Cupping is not recommended for pregnant women or children.
Q. Does cupping hurt?
A. If performed correctly, cupping should not hurt. It has been described as feeling like a “small octopus” is grabbing hold of the skin with its suctioned tentacles. In wet cupping (also known as hijama), the incisions do hurt, but the pain is reportedly tolerable. Though there is no license required for cupping, consider going to a licensed acupuncturist (LAc) for wet cupping or fire cupping to reduce the risk of infection or burns.