Cupping vs Acupuncture (Health Coach’s Advice)

cupping vs acupuncture from data from find it health coaches and wellness coaches

As the director of the wellness instructor team here at Find It Health, I’m often asked to compare the differences between two popular forms of alternative medicine – cupping and acupuncture.

Both are ancient Chinese practices with a long history of application and can be used to treat various health issues.

In this article, I’ll explain how each one works and why they’re both effective. I’ll also discuss some of the differences between the two to help you decide which one is right for your needs.

Acupuncture vs Cupping: Which Therapy Is More Helpful?

No matter which option you choose, both cupping and acupuncture are beneficial when it comes to restoring balance to your body and taking care of yourself.

Cupping is an effective way of reducing tension and stress that usually involves creating suction on the skin using glass or silicone cups. This suction pulls toxins and other impurities from your body, leaving it feeling relaxed and refreshed.

It can also be used to relieve digestive issues, lower blood pressure, and even reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Acupuncture, conversely, involves inserting very thin needles into specific areas of your body. Not only does this alleviate discomfort and inflammation, but it further contributes to fostering holistic well-being.

Acupuncture can also help with various other issues, including sleep disorders, anxiety and depression, nausea, and menstrual issues. Investing in your health can help you feel better physically and emotionally and improve your overall quality of life.

It is essential to discuss your individual needs and health goals with a qualified practitioner so they can recommend the best course of action for you.


Types Of Acupuncture

Below is a list of the different types of acupuncture that practitioners use:

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture

This type of acupuncture is the most widely practiced method in the world. Practitioners insert needles at specific acupuncture points throughout your body to improve the flow of qi and blood through the body’s meridians (energy channels).

Auricular (Ear) Acupuncture

Auricular acupuncture involves inserting needles into specific acupuncture points on the ear. Each point on the ear corresponds to a different part of the body. Auricular acupuncture is used to treat various disorders such as addiction and anxiety.

Japanese Acupuncture

Japanese acupuncture is a type of acupuncture that uses a different needling technique than TCM acupuncture. Practitioners insert needles more shallowly and use fewer needles than in TCM acupuncture.

Five-Element Acupuncture

Five-Element acupuncture is based on the principles of the five elements in traditional Chinese medicine. This acupuncture technique works by balancing the energy between the five elements of water, wood, fire, earth, and metal.



Electro-acupuncture uses a small electrical current applied to the acupuncture needles to stimulate the acupuncture points.

This technique is often used for pain management and to promote healing.

Types Of Cupping

Dry Cupping

Dry cupping is a therapeutic method that entails attaching a suction cup to the skin without any fluid. The suction is created by either using a hand pump or by heating the air inside the cup and allowing it to cool down before applying it to the skin.

Wet Cupping

This type of cupping involves making small incisions on the skin and then applying a suction cup to the area to draw out blood and other fluids from the body.

Massage Cupping

In massage cupping, the cups are moved around the skin to massage the area. This technique is often used to relieve muscle tension and pain, improve circulation, and break down adhesions in the muscles.

Flash Cupping

Flash cupping involves quickly applying and removing the suction cups from the skin at strategic points, which helps to stimulate blood flow and promote healing.

Running Cupping

Running cupping therapy is a type of cupping that involves using the cups to move along the body, creating a massage-like effect.

The practitioner applies oil to the skin and then moves the cups along the body.


Materials Used for Acupuncture and Cupping

Acupuncture needles are usually made from stainless steel, but gold or silver may also be used. The needle size is determined by the part of the body under treatment and its sensitivity.

In addition to needles, acupuncturists may use moxa (Artemisia Vulgaris), a dried herb that is burned to produce heat and promote healing. When combined with acupuncture needles, moxa can help relieve pain and stimulate blood circulation.

For cupping, practitioners use plastic, silicone, or glass cups that are placed on the skin to create suction.

Some practitioners may use fire to heat the air inside the cups to create a stronger suction. They may also use oil to help the cups move more easily over the skin.

Marks From Acupuncture and Cupping

Although both acupuncture and cupping are usually painless, they can leave temporary marks on the skin.

While there may be some slight redness around the area where the needle was inserted, most marks from acupuncture should disappear within a few hours.

Marks from cupping may last longer and range from pink to reddish-brown. However, these marks are not permanent and typically fade away after several days.

The length of time it takes for the marks to go away will depend on the length and intensity of the treatment.


Acupuncture Pros

  • Acupuncture is often used to alleviate pain, including headaches, migraines, menstrual cramps, and back and neck pain.
  • It can help promote relaxation and reduce stress.
  • It can also help boost the immune system by stimulating the body’s natural defense mechanisms.
  • Some people find that regular acupuncture treatments can help them feel more energized, improve their digestion, and support overall wellness.
  • Acupuncture is generally considered safe and has very few side effects when practiced by a licensed professional.
  • Unlike some other medical treatments, acupuncture does not involve surgery or medication.

Acupuncture Risks

  • There is a risk of infection when acupuncture needles are not properly sterilized or handled. In addition, if the needles are inserted too deeply, they may puncture an organ, such as the nerves.
  • It is possible to have an allergic reaction to the material used for acupuncture needles.
  • Fainting, nausea, or dizziness may occur during acupuncture due to the release of endorphins, a natural painkiller.
  • In rare cases, acupuncture can cause bleeding or a hematoma (a collection of blood outside the blood vessels). This is more likely if the practitioner does not use disposable needles or fails to practice proper hygiene.


Cupping Pros

  • Alleviates muscle tension and promotes relaxation. This can be helpful for people experiencing muscle aches or pain.
  • Improve circulation by increasing blood flow to the area where the cups are placed.
  • Cupping therapy can also alleviate respiratory issues such as asthma and bronchitis.
  • Cupping therapy can help to remove toxins from the body and improve overall wellness.
  • Promote healing and recovery in athletes or people experiencing injuries. The increased blood flow to the treated area may help speed up healing.
  • Similar to acupuncture, cupping therapy is a non-invasive treatment option. There’s no surgery or medication involved.

Cupping Risks

  • Cupping therapy can cause skin irritation, redness, or bruises at the site where the cup was placed.
  • It can also lead to burns.
  • There is a risk of infection if the skin is not properly cleaned before the cups are placed or if the cups are not adequately sterilized.
  • Cupping can cause bleeding if a patient has a bleeding disorder or takes blood-thinning medication such as Warfarin or Aspirin.
  • If the vacuum created by the cups is too strong, it can pull on the muscles and cause discomfort or injury.
  • Cupping therapy can cause a sensation of dizziness or lightheadedness during or after treatment.


Cupping Vs Massage

Cupping therapy is often compared to massage, as the technique also involves applying pressure onto the skin.

However, there are some key differences between cupping and massage, as highlighted in the table below:

It is a static technique where the cups are applied to specific points on the body for a set amount of time without any movement.Massage therapy is a dynamic technique– The massage therapist will use their hands to move around the body to relax and loosen the muscle tissue.
Cupping therapy typically uses cups that create a vacuum.Massage therapists use their hands to apply pressure.
Works by stimulating energy flow.Massage therapy is more focused on relieving muscle tension and promoting relaxation.
Cupping therapy is known to be more intense, and some patients may find it painful.Massage therapy is often considered to be more gentle and relaxing.

Overall, cupping therapy and massage both have beneficial effects on the body, but they work differently.

It is important to speak with your healthcare provider or a qualified practitioner to determine which treatment is best for you.


Acupuncture Vs Massage

Acupuncture and massage therapy are two forms of complementary and alternative medicine that can provide numerous physical and mental benefits.

While they differ in their origins, techniques, and physical benefits, both can help to improve overall wellness, reduce stress, and alleviate physical pain.

TechniqueInvolves inserting thin, sterile needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of qi and promote healing.Involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia through various techniques such as rubbing, kneading, and tapping.
Physical BenefitsEffective in treating chronic pain, headaches, and nausea. It can also boost immune function, reduce inflammation, and improve circulation.Can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation. It has also been found to be effective in treating chronic pain, anxiety, and depression.
Suitable forConditions involving pain or headaches.Issues with muscle tension or stress.

You may consider trying one or both treatments, depending on your specific needs and preferences, while keeping in mind the potential risks and side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is cupping more effective than acupuncture?

No definitive studies show whether cupping is more effective than acupuncture or vice versa.

Some people may find one therapy more effective than acupuncture for their specific needs, while others may benefit from a combination of both.

What is the difference between cupping and acupuncture?

Cupping techniques involve placing cups on the skin and creating suction to increase blood flow, loosen muscles, and promote healing.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into particular points on the body, along the meridians, to stimulate these points and help balance the body’s energy flow(Qi).

What are 3 negatives of cupping?

  • Bruising and skin irritation.
  • Potential for infection.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.

Can an acupuncturist do cupping?

Yes, many acupuncturists are trained in the practice of cupping and can offer this therapy to their patients.

It is always best to check with your healthcare provider or practitioner to ensure they are qualified and experienced in cupping therapy.

Is cupping or acupuncture more risky?

Both cupping and acupuncture come with some risks. For example, cupping can cause bruising, skin irritation, dizziness, or lightheadedness, while acupuncture may cause bleeding, bruising, or infection.

Understanding the differences between the two therapies is essential before deciding which one is right for you.

What are 3 benefits of cupping vs acupuncture?

  • Cupping helps increase blood flow and loosen muscles, while acupuncture stimulates energy flow.
  • Cupping is generally considered to be more intense than acupuncture, and some people may find it more effective for pain relief.
  • Cupping is non-invasive, while acupuncture can involve more physical contact with the practitioner.



Cupping therapy and acupuncture are both forms of alternative medicine with potential health benefits, but they work differently.

Cupping is a non-invasive therapy that can help to increase blood flow and loosen muscles, while acupuncture involves stimulating specific points on the body with needles.

Depending on your individual needs and preferences, either therapy may be suitable for managing pain and other conditions. However, it is important to speak with a qualified healthcare professional before starting any type of alternative medicine treatment.


Find It Health Editor in Chief Luz Chacon Health and Wellness Coach Giving You Advice

Luz Chacon

Luz Chacon is a Health Educator, Wellness Coach, and EFT Tapping Practitioner with 30+ years in health advocacy. Specializing in stress management, wellbeing, and holistic health, she created a 40% stress reduction employee program. Luz is dedicated to helping busy individuals prioritize self-care, break patterns, and reach goals. She offers programs for organizations and individuals. Luz is passionate about sharing her health research and guiding informed choices!

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Luz Chacon Health Coaches at Find It Health and Stress Management and Natural Holistic Health Coaches