How to Develop a New Healthy Habit

If you were like most people when New Year’s Day arrived you set out on a quest to revamp your daily life. Whether it be diet, exercise, relationships, or work when the new year starts each of us is imbued with a sense of motivation to make things better than they were last year.

Unfortunately, this strong initial motivation and excitement fizzle within a few short weeks, frequently resulting in millions and millions of unfilled resolutions.

NOT THIS YEAR!

In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what you need to do to create new healthy habits and make them stick!

Even better, the tips we’ll outline in this article aren’t just useful for helping you stick to your New Year’s Resolution. You can also use these pointers to help establish any other new habit (and/or break old ones) as well as help you achieve any other personal, physical, or financial goal, too!

Let’s get started.

8 Tips to Make Those New Habits Stick

 

Focus on One Thing at a Time

We’ll be completely honest, establishing a new healthy habit can be hard – really, really hard. Even the most internally motivated people struggle from time to time by embracing new things and integrating them in their daily lives.

This is also what makes breaking old habits so hard. All humans, even the most flexible are all resistant to some extent or another to change.

Developing a new habit takes time, commitment, and effort.

As such, we recommend you take things slowly and try to focus on building your new healthy habits one at a time. Trying to instill too many new habits at once or break too many old ones at once is setting yourself up for failure as well as a great deal of frustration and hopelessness.

By focusing on creating, developing, and nurturing one good habit at a time (no matter how small it may be) sets you up for success and the likelihood that it will stick for good.

As a bonus, anytime you accomplish a goal in life, your body rewards you with a dopamine hit. Dopamine, in case you weren’t aware, is the happy hormone/neurotransmitter responsible for making us feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when completing a task.

Dopamine also helps motivate us to get started on a task and focus on the work it takes to complete that task.

Use the surge of dopamine released from establishing your first new habit to fuel you for the second one, then the third one, and so on.

Take Things Slowly

In line with the previous point, another crucial tip to keep in mind when trying to build a new habit is to take things slowly.

What do we mean by “slowly”? Well, let’s say that your goal is to clean up your diet.

If you’re like most people who try to go about revamping their diet, they try to completely overhaul their diet in one fell swoop.

Any junk food is removed from the house, the takeout menus are thrown away, and the new meals are comprised of baked chicken, boiled rice and steamed broccoli.

Even the most stalwart clean eater would be tempted to ditch such as dull, unimaginative, restrictive, and bland diet.

Rather than try to build Rome in a day, start your road to a healthier nutrition plan by making small changes one at a time. Start by breaking the larger goal of wanting to eat better into several small ones.

For example, your first week, aim to consume at least 2-3 servings of vegetables per day.

The second week keep eating the 2-3 servings of vegetables and add to it that you will consume enough protein each day.

The third week keep your habits from the first two weeks in place and then remove one “bad” thing from your diet.

Say, for instance, you’re used to having two full sugar cans of soda during the day, a candy bar, and then some ice cream at night before going to bed.

Your goal this week is to remove one of these indulgences.

So, if you “have” to have your candy and ice cream, then switch to diet soda, or if you can remove soda all together.

The fourth week, continue to phase out the “dirty” foods and phase in healthier options.

These small changes compound on themselves and build momentum.

Some people may be able to go cold turkey and completely overhaul their diet in one day, but the vast majority of people do better with taking things slowly and making small changes one at a time.

Doing so also helps reinforce that you’re making long-term changes and not adopting yet another quick-fix fad diet that has you feeling deprived and itching to cheat.

Be Specific

This pointer isn’t relegated to New Year’s resolutions, weight loss goals, or financial dreams. It applies to everything.

If you want something, want to change some tendency you have (i.e., a habit), or want to develop a new way to do things, you have to be specific in deciding what you want and how you want to do it.

Using weight loss again as an example.

Don’t merely say, “I want to lose weight.”

While not entirely meaningless, failing to attach any metrics (amount of weight loss, date to have weight loss completed by, etc.) to your goal makes it less concrete, less definitive, and less likely that you will accomplish it.

Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” maybe say, “I want to lose 5 pounds in the next five weeks.”

This goal is both specific and has a timeline attached to it so that you also have that little bit of pressure and motivation to accomplish your goal before the due date.

Specificity also works with establishing other habits as well.

For instance, if you want to revamp your diet or spend less time browsing social media, don’t say “I want to eat better” or “I want to waste less time on social media.”

Instead, tell yourself, “I will eat three servings of green vegetables today and two pieces of fruit” or “I will only spend 30 minutes on Instagram only after I’ve completed my meaningful work for the day.”

Again, being specific gives you a more precise, more defined target to focus your mental and physical energies on, and helping you take another step towards developing and ingraining those healthy habits.

Make Sure Your Life Is in Order

Much of the advice given when it comes to getting things done in life or establishing new habits is “just do it.”

What this advice/mindset is essentially telling you is that “I don’t care what’s going on in your life right now. Just suck it up and do it.”

While this attitude might work form a small percentage of the population, for the vast majority of people, telling them to do “x” with little regard for the other factors in their life is a bit too reductionist in our opinion.

You see, forming new habits requires a considerable amount of determination and willpower, both of which run out after a certain point.

Trying to instill new habits amidst changing jobs, movings residences, having a baby, or a zombie apocalypse is a recipe for disaster. Each of these scenarios (along with many others) brings about a considerable amount of stress. Developing new habits is also stressful to a certain point.

You have a finite ability to tolerate and recover from stress before you crack.

When trying to create new healthy habits, make sure the rest of your life is in relatively good order. Nobody’s life is perfect, and there is always something bound to happen each day, but so long the things you have to do with are relatively “small potatoes” you can work your way towards developing those new habits.

Eliminate the “Have to” Mindset

For many people, whenever they seek to change something in their lives or create a new way of doing things, they approach it from a “have to” mindset, meaning they “have to” do “x” or “y” or “z”.

This “have to” mindset automatically creates a negative association with the new habit you’re trying to develop and puts you in a very defensive (potentially) hostile disposition.

People often say things such as “I have to eat vegetables,” “I have to lose weight,” or “I have to go visit my in-laws.”

Instead of looking at your new habit as a “have to,” embrace a more positive, opportunistic mindset by using the phrase “get to.”

Let’s say for example you struggle with wanting to go to the gym to exercise. The next time you set out for the gym, don’t tell yourself that you “have to” go exercise because it’s the right thing to do. 

Instead, say “I get to go spend an hour bettering myself mentally and physically. I’m becoming stronger, more resilient.”

If more superficial things motivate you when it comes to training, you could just as easily say, “I get to go build a better set of biceps” (or glutes, pecs, etc.).

This also translates to diet, family, or anything else. Switching your mindset from “have to” to “get to” creates a sense of opportunity with a potential reward at the end, both of which put you in a more positive state of being and more motivated to do whatever it is that you are about to do.

While it may seem silly at first, this small change in your attitude towards things will pay enormous dividends for embracing and establishing new habits in your life.

Visualize Success

Visualization is key to success with everything in life.

If you don’t believe that you are capable of achieving something, then you will not accomplish it. Plain and simple.

For example, let’s say you are attempting to set a new 1-rep max on the back squat. Before you step under the bar, you have to see yourself squatting full depth and standing back up. If you don’t know in your heart of hearts than you can lift the weight, then you won’t.

The same can be said of breaking a bad habit. If you cannot visualize yourself avoiding or stopping whatever it is that you’re trying to remove from your daily life, then you won’t.

In other words, you have to believe you can do something to accomplish it.

Visualize yourself performing the bad habit, and then envision yourself stopping. Next, visualize yourself performing the good habit. Finally, make sure to envision the sense of satisfaction, accomplishment, and reward you will feel at having set aside the bad habit and performed the good one.

Performing these mental exercises will set you up for success so that when you do put your plan into motion, your body will automatically go through the motions.

After all, the body follows where the mind takes it.

Visualize success in your new habit, and you WILL achieve it!

Get Support and Accountability

There comes a point in every person’s life when they need support emotionally, physically, or psychologically. Referencing on of the previous points above, we all have a finite amount of determination, willpower, and resilience. Sooner or later each of us will hit a sticking point where we need some help, encouragement, and support to overcome said obstacle and continue along our path of success.

Having a friend, significant other, or family member as your accountability and support buddy can do wonders for helping you stay on track with your goals and new habit formations.

Self-motivation can take you a long way, but we all have those moments of weakness when we don’t feel like going to the gym or want to deviate from our healthy eating plan.

Having an accountability part can provide support to help you overcome the temptation to deviate from your plan of action and help you stay on locked in on your goals.

Realize You Aren’t Perfect

Nobody is perfect.

During your journey to establish new healthy habits, you will have lapses in judgment and fall back into old habits, even if just for a moment.

When it happens (and it does to all of us), realize that it is ok. You are not perfect, and you will goof up from time to time.

The more important thing is how you rebound from your slip. Do you let your minor mistake completely derail your progress and send you spiraling down into your old ways, or do you take it as a learning experience and use the mistake as fuel for your internal fire to make you better the next time.

Remember, it’s not how many times you fall, but how many times you rise.

The way you come back after falling off course says volumes more about your character, determination, and work ethic than a minor lapse here or there.

And remember to stay focused on the big picture. Do not let small things derail you from achieving your end goal.

Expect a few bumps along the way and realize they are there merely to make you stronger and more resilient.

Takeaway

As the new year begins, we are all excited for what lies ahead. In that excitement, we make all sorts of lofty goals, but very few of them are ever truly realized.

Use the tips in this guide to help you instill those new habits and achieve more this year than in any previous one.

Collagen 101: What it is and What it Does

If you’re looking for information about collagen, congratulations! You’ve arrived at your destination.

Collagen is one of the big buzzwords tossed around these days regardless if you’re talking about health, fitness, beauty or bodybuilding. There are collagen supplements, supplements to improve collagen, collagen creams, lotions, and even foods you can eat to boost collagen.

Collagen is literally everywhere it seems. But what is it, what does it do, and why does everyone seem to be interested in it lately?

We’re here to answer those questions and many more in this complete guide to all things collagen.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is a protein. In fact, collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, especially type 1 collagen. It’s composed principally of the two amino acids, glycine and proline. As the most abundant protein in the body, collagen is present in your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, and even the digestive system.

Collagen is what gives the skin elasticity and strength. In essence, collagen is the “glue” that holds your body together!

Unfortunately, as we age, the amount of collagen produced by the body gradually declines, as with most other things in life. In addition to aging, a number of other factors can impact your body’s collagen levels and production. Prolonged exposure to the sun and excessive sugar consumption have both been shown to reduce collagen synthesis, as do activities such as drinking and smoking. [1,2,3]

To further complicated things, there isn’t just one type of collagen present in the body either. You’ll probably be surprised to learn that there are in fact SIXTEEN (16) different kinds of collagen found throughout the body. [4]

Now, types I, II, and III accounts for the vast majority of the collagen in your body (around 90%), but nevertheless, that’s a LOT of different types of collagen floating around inside you.

Benefits of Collagen

Collagen has become a hot commodity in recent years due to the wide range of benefits it offers:

  • Improves the health of hair, skin, and nails

    Seeing as that collagen is the main structural protein of the body, it makes perfect sense that it would improve the quality and appearance of your hair, skin, and nails. Research has shown that supplementing with collagen can help reduce signs of aging by reducing the appearance of cellulite and wrinkles as well as improve skin elasticity. [5,6]

    If you suffer from brittle nails or thinning hair, consuming collagen may help there too, as the protein is a primary component in the structure of your nails and hair. [7] A 2015 study noted that there are “essential relationships between extracellular matrix (ECM) and hair follicle regeneration”[7], and suggest collagen supplementation could be beneficial for treating hair loss and skin-related diseases.

  • Preserves joint integrity

    Collagen isn’t only important for your external structures, but also your internal ones, especially your connective tissues, including cartilage and tendons.

    Osteoarthritis (OA) occurs when there is a significant breakdown of the entire joint complex — cartilage, joint lining, ligaments, and bone. This continual degradation leads to pain, stiffness, and swelling, which limits range of movement, significantly impacting quality of life.

    Joints naturally degrade over the years, but intense physical activity also contributes to wear and tear of the joints. As such, collagen supplements aren’t used by just the elderly, but also athletes, bodybuilders, and even recreational lifters. A comprehensive review of the literature found that collagen supplements can be extremely beneficial for improving signs and symptoms of osteoarthritis. [8]

  • Combats leaky gut

    Collagen is a crucial cog in the function and integrity of your digestive system. For starters, collagen regulates the number of gastric juices released into the stomach, preventing an excessive amount of stomach acid, which can lead to heartburn, stomach ulcers, and other painful GI issues. On top of that, glycine and proline, the two primary amino acids of collagen, can help heal the lining of the stomach, preventing ulcers from forming. Finally, low levels of collagen are associated with certain GI illnesses, including inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). Supplementing with collagen can help raise collagen levels in the body, which promotes gut health and contributes to the structural integrity of the entire GI tract. [9]

  • Accelerate injury recovery

    Collagen has also been studied for its ability to enhance recovery following traumatic injury, wounds, skeletal muscle injury or burns. [10,11] From collagen-based wound dressings to orally consumed collagen supplements, researchers are exploring the many different ways by which collagen can accelerate the recovery and rehabilitation process both in the internal structures and external appearance of the body.

  • Better sleep

    Consuming collagen 30 to 60 minutes might help with sleep too! This is due to the fact that collagen is very high in glycine, which has been shown in research to reduce fatigue, improve mental clarity the morning after taking glycine. Additionally, it’s also been shown to accelerate how quickly you fall asleep and how “deep” your sleep is. [12,13]

  • Supports liver health

    Collagen supplementation can also improve your body’s ability to detox, thereby enhancing its ability to stave off sickness. One of the biggest contributors to liver function and health is the amino acid glycine, one of the primary building blocks of collagen. Glycine is essential to glutathione production, one of the most powerful antioxidants in the body. [14]

    It’s also required for something called “phase 2 detoxification” which is one of the two pathways involved in detoxifying the body. Phase 2 detoxification involves converting fat-soluble toxins into water-soluble chemicals that can then be excreted out through bile and urine. This involves converting the fat-soluble toxic chemical and transforming the toxins into water-soluble chemicals. Then they are passed out through body fluids as such as the bile or urine. Deficiencies in glycine (or one of the other amino acids needed) can severely reduce Phase 2 detoxification, heightening your chances for illness and infection.

  • More Muscle

    Yes, collagen can even help you build more muscle, which is probably another reason lifters are shoveling down collagen by the spoonful. Research conducted in elderly men demonstrated that consuming collagen supplements in conjunction with resistance training increased mass and strength more than placebo. [15]

How to Increase Collagen

Given the litany of benefits that collagen has to offer, you’re probably salivating at the prospect of getting your hands-on collagen and adding it to your supplement stash. Before you resort to supplements though, there are a few things you can do with your current diet to ensure optimal collagen production in your body, namely consuming more of the following four nutrients:

  • Glycine

    The primary building block of collagen is found in vast amounts in chicken skin, gelatin, and pork skin. So, feel free to have some more of those skin on chicken breasts, thighs, and legs.

  • Proline

    The other major amino acid of collagen is found in high amounts in dairy products, asparagus, mushrooms, egg whites, and wheat germ.

  • Vitamin C

    Everyone’s favorite cold-combatting vitamin, the water-soluble vitamin can be found in a great many foods, but some of our favorites are bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and of course everyone’s favorite — the orange.

  • Pantothenic Acid

    Also known as Vitamin B5, Pantothenic Acid is an essential nutrient that is required for the metabolism of dietary carbs, proteins, and fats consumed on a daily basis. Vitamin B5 is critical for the growth and differentiation of keratin and collagen.

Aside from diet, collagen supplements are becoming increasingly more affordable and accessible. While there are a great many options to choose from, our recommendation is to go with BioCell Collagen®, which is a main ingredient in Steel Beauty™. It’s the only form of collagen supplement on the market with several clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness at increasing collagen production in the body, improving symptoms of joint pain and discomfort, and accelerating recovery from exercise. [16,17]

For these reasons, and many more, BioCell Collagen® which is found in Steel Beauty™, is the clear front-runner when it comes to purchasing your collagen supplement.

Wrap Up

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, quite possibly the most important one too. It’s involved in just about every aspect of appearance, function, and health of the body, and it’s definitely one protein you don’t want to be lacking. If you’re suffering from achy knees and cranky elbows, looking to up your gains in the gym, or wanting to restore your youthful looks collagen can be a safe and effective means to enhancing your appearance and performance.

By supplementing with Steel Beauty™, you will maintain youthful looking skin and promote healthy, lustrous hair and strong, beautiful nails. Steel Beauty™ is physician formulated with clinical doses of the most cutting edge, research validated, patented ingredients known to boost collagen synthesis, improve skin hydration, reduce wrinkles and fine lines, strengthen hair, reduce oxidative stress and support cellular and tissue health.*

References

  1. Donejko M, Przylipiak A, Rysiak E, et al. Hyaluronic acid abrogates ethanol-dependent inhibition of collagen biosynthesis in cultured human fibroblasts. Drug Design, Development and Therapy. 2015;9:6225-6233. doi:10.2147/DDDT.S91968.
  2. Overbeek SA, Braber S, Koelink PJ, et al. Cigarette Smoke-Induced Collagen Destruction; Key to Chronic Neutrophilic Airway Inflammation? Hartl D, ed. PLoS ONE. 2013;8(1):e55612. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055612.
  3. Danby FW. Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clin Dermatol. 2010;28(4):409-411. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018.
  4. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. New York: W. H. Freeman; 2000. Section 22.3, Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix.
  5. Proksch E, Schunck M, Zague V, Segger D, Degwert J, Oesser S. Oral intake of specific bioactive collagen peptides reduces skin wrinkles and increases dermal matrix synthesis. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(3):113-119. doi:10.1159/000355523.
  6. Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S, Proksch E. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2015;18(12):1340-1348. doi:10.1089/jmf.2015.0022.
  7. Chen P, Cescon M, Bonaldo P. Lack of Collagen VI Promotes Wound-Induced Hair Growth. J Invest Dermatol. 2015;135(10):2358-2367. doi:10.1038/jid.2015.187.
  8. Bello AE, Oesser S. Collagen hydrolysate for the treatment of osteoarthritis and other joint disorders: a review of the literature. Curr Med Res Opin. 2006;22(11):2221-2232. doi:10.1185/030079906X148373.
  9. Koutroubakis IE, Petinaki E, Dimoulios P, et al. Serum laminin and collagen IV in inflammatory bowel disease. Journal of Clinical Pathology. 2003;56(11):817-820.
  10. Mathangi Ramakrishnan K, Babu M, Mathivanan, Jayaraman V, Shankar J. Advantages of collagen based biological dressings in the management of superficial and superficial partial thickness burns in children. Annals of Burns and Fire Disasters. 2013;26(2):98-104.
  11. Baar K. Minimizing Injury and Maximizing Return to Play: Lessons from Engineered Ligaments. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.z). 2017;47(Suppl 1):5-11. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0719-x.
  12. INAGAWA, K., HIRAOKA, T., KOHDA, T., YAMADERA, W. and TAKAHASHI, M. (2006), Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 4: 75–77. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x
  13. YAMADERA, W., INAGAWA, K., CHIBA, S., BANNAI, M., TAKAHASHI, M. and NAKAYAMA, K. (2007), Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5: 126–131. doi:10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x
  14. Ruiz-Ramirez A, Ortiz-Balderas E, Cardozo-Saldana G, Diaz-Diaz E, El-Hafidi M. Glycine restores glutathione and protects against oxidative stress in vascular tissue from sucrose-fed rats. Clin Sci (Lond). 2014;126(1):19-29. doi:10.1042/CS20130164.
  15. Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Baumstark MW, Gollhofer A, König D. Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial. The British Journal of Nutrition. 2015;114(8):1237-1245. doi:10.1017/S0007114515002810.
  16. Lopez HL, Habowski S, Sandrock J, Kedia A, Ziegenfuss T. Effects of BioCell Collagen® on connective tissue protection and functional recovery from exercise in healthy adults: a pilot study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2014;11(Suppl 1):P48. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-S1-P48.
  17. Schauss AG, Stenehjem J, Park J, Endres JR, Clewell A. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Agric Food Chem. 2012;60(16):4096-4101. doi:10.1021/jf205295u.

Complete Guide to Cupping and its Benefits

Cupping is an age-old remedy that’s been historically used to treat a variety of ailments. Recently, it’s come back into the limelight and if you’re like many people, you’re wondering what all the fuss is about.

What is cupping? Is cupping effective? Is it backed by science? How many cups do you need for cupping?

We answer all those questions and more in this up-close look at cupping.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a type of alternative non-pharmaceutical therapy used as part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. This suction promotes healing through increasing blood flow and the flow of “qi” in the body. FYI, ‘“qi” means “life force” in Chinese.

Cupping increases blood circulation to the areas of the body where the cups are placed, which is purported to encourage cellular repair and relieve muscle tension. It may also help create/restore connective tissue and encourage blood vessel formation, further improving circulation.

Cupping is most often used as an adjunct therapy for whatever current conditions or ailments they may be facing.

Types of Cupping

When it was originally developed many centuries ago (as far back as 1,550 B.C.!) cupping was performed using animal horns, and over the years, the horns have been replaced by bamboo, and later on, ceramic cups. Today, cupping is performed with rounded glass cups that look like a ball with one of the ends opened up.

The “suction” effect that happens during cupping is a result of the heating process of the cups, which was originally accomplished using fire. As the heated cups cool, the skin is drawn in as the air is removed, creating the “suction” that is so well-known with the practice of cupping.

Modern cupping is performed following either of two methods:

  • Dry cupping involves using only suction, whereas
  • Wet cupping involves suction as well as controlled medicinal bleeding

Note: the cupping practitioner usually determines which method is appropriate for you given your age, medical condition, preferences, etc.

Cupping Up-Close

So, what happens during a cupping treatment?

Well, regardless of wet or dry cupping, the practitioner will put a flammable substance (alcohol, paper, herbs, etc.) in a cup and set the it on fire. This heats the cup, and once the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on your skin. As the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created, causing suction and leads to your skin being drawn up and into the cup. Additionally, the skin also reddens due to the increased blood flow.

Note: Certain modern practitioners have transitioned to machine pumps with silicone cups that can be moved from one spot to another on your skin, yielding a “massage-like” sensation.

If it’s your first time being “cupped”, you may only receive 3-5 cups, though it may be as high as seven cups if you’re a cupping veteran. Now, here’s where we get into the differences of dry and wet cupping.

In dry cupping, cups are set in place for usually between 5 and 10 minutes and then removed, whereas with wet cupping, the cups are usually only in place for approximately 3-5 minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood. Following the “blood letting”, the practitioner will apply antibiotic ointment and a bandage to prevent any infection.

While that might seem pretty scary having someone cut your skin and release blood, cupping enthusiasts believe it helps purify and detoxify the body from any hazardous toxins, which promotes healing, though this is not substantiated by any scientific evidence. Following your cupping treatment, the skin should begin to look normal in about 7-10 days.

A third, and less common, form of cupping has been tried recently called “needle cupping” where the cupping practitioner first inserts acupuncture needles into the skin and then places cups over them.

Before any cupping treatment, it is best recommended to fast or eat a light meal approximately 2-3 hours before your cupping session.

Common Applications of Cupping

Over the centuries, cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions, including everything from minor aches and pains to skin issues, such as acne. Since the cups can be applied to acupressure points, cupping has been used to also treat digestive issues and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

A comprehensive review of cupping conducted in 2012 noted that the practice may offer more than simply placebo, and stated that cupping could help with the several conditions, including[1]:

  • Acne
  • Coughing
  • Facial paralysis
  • Dyspnea
  • Herpes zoster
  • Cervical spondylosis
  • Lumbar disc herniation

However, the review clearly states that most of the 135 studies included in the review are highly biased and additional studies are needed to determine whether or not cupping is truly effective for the conditions outlined in the review.

Additionally another report in 2015 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine stated that cupping may be beneficial for pain management, herpes zoster, and acne [2], and even more recently, a 2017 review of the literature[3] concluded:

“Cupping therapy and acupuncture are potentially safe, and they have similar effectiveness in relieving pain. However, further rigorous studies investigating relevant pain-related conditions are warranted to establish comparative effectiveness analysis between these two therapies. Cost-effectiveness studies should be considered in the future studies to establish evidence for decision-making in clinical practice.”

Finally, a 2018 study suggests that a “clear relationship between Hijama and the reduction and control of SBP in patients with hypertension. Therefore, Hijama can be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy, which may allow down titration of given doses of antihypertensive drugs.” [4]

That final study is interesting and somewhat obvious, anything that decreases the total volume of blood in the body is going to lead to a reduction in systemic blood pressure. Is bloodletting a long-term solution to high blood pressure (hypertension)? No.

Potential Side Effects

Provided your seeking treatment from a well-trained and qualified cupping practitioner, the side effects and risks of cupping are relatively minimal. Possible side effects that might occur as a result of your cupping treatment include:

  • Mild discomfort
  • Burns
  • Bruises
  • Skin infection
  • Scarring (if receiving wet cupping)

Additionally, you may also feel slightly dizzy or lightheaded during your treatment, as well as potential sweating (from the heat) or nausea).

Following your cupping session, the skin on the areas where the cups were placed will be reddened and possibly irritated. If you did wet cupping, you will also likely experience pain where the incisions occurred.

Be aware that infection is always a possibility when undergoing wet cupping. The risk is low, and typically not a concern provided that the practitioner is using proper sanitation methods on the instruments involved as well as your skin.

Some things to look for in your practitioner, especially if they’re performing wet cupping on you. They should wear:

  • Disposable gloves
  • Goggles (or some form of protective eyewear)
  • Apron

Using properly sterilized instruments helps prevent infection and ensures you’re not at risk for contracting certain viruses such as hepatitis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Tips on Cupping

Before we finish this expose’ on cupping, we’ll leave you with a few parting pointers to be aware of should you be interested in giving this ancient healing art a go.

Most degreed medical professionals (i.e. doctors) are not trained or have any background in adjunct (complementary) therapies typically used in alternative medicine. As such, your doctor will in all likelihood be very skeptical of your attempt to try cupping.

Certain traditional medicine practitioners are such strong believers in their craft, that they may encourage you to forego standard Western medicine practices in favor of their methods, but again, this is not advised. Always consult with your physician before starting or stopping any treatments, no matter how old they may be.

Additionally, if you do attempt cupping, make sure to keep up your regular doctor visits and keep them informed of your desire/progress with cupping.

Finally, cupping isn’t for everyone. If you are pregnant, menstruating, elderly, or a child, cupping is NOT recommended. Also, if you have any form of organ disorder, it is strongly advised that you do not try cupping.

Cupping Wrap Up

Cupping is an ancient healing practice used to treat a wide range of ailments. Anecdotal evidence speaks highly of the practice, and there is some scientific research to support its effectiveness in reducing aches and pains. It is by no means a replacement for regular doctor visits or western medicine, and should you be interested in giving cupping a go, always make sure to check with your primary care physician before attempting it.

References

  1. Cao H, Li X, Liu J. An Updated Review of the Efficacy of Cupping Therapy. Malaga G, ed. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(2):e31793. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031793.
  2. Mehta P, Dhapte V. Cupping therapy: A prudent remedy for a plethora of medical ailments. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. 2015;5(3):127-134. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2014.11.036.
  3. Zhang Y-J, Cao H-J, Li X-L, et al. Cupping therapy versus acupuncture for pain-related conditions: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials and trial sequential analysis. Chinese Medicine. 2017;12:21. doi:10.1186/s13020-017-0142-0.
  4. Al-Tabakha MM, Sameer FT, Saeed MH, Batran RM, Abouhegazy NT, Farajallah AA. Evaluation of Bloodletting Cupping Therapy in the Management of Hypertension. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences. 2018;10(1):1-6. doi:10.4103/jpbs.JPBS_242_17.