Take care when cupping, watchdog warns

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 January, 2010, 12:00am

Cupping is becoming an increasingly popular therapy, but a consumer watchdog warns that burns and blisters could be what customers get if they visit the wrong therapists.

Practitioners believe that the vacuum created by temporarily attaching a glass 'cup' to the skin can help increase blood circulation and relieve pain. A flame in the cup may be used to create the vacuum, but people will have to be very careful with it, the Consumer Council warns.

The council received two complaints about cupping in the past two years. In one of the cases, the complainant went to a health centre for cupping. After a few minutes, he felt pain from the cups on his back, but the therapist had left and he could not remove them by himself. Blisters had formed on his back when the therapist returned, and they had to be punctured with a needle.

The complainant went to a hospital when the wounds had not healed after a month. To treat his infected wounds, he spent a total of HK$3,822.

In the other case, a woman signed up for a HK$30,000 package at a beauty centre and was offered a cupping treatment. She found blisters on her back after the process, and scars remained afterwards. The centre refused to compensate her, saying cupping was not included in the package.

The complainants aim to take the cases to the Small Claims Tribunal.

Patients with high fever, cramping, bleeding problems or inflamed skin should not try cupping, the council advises, adding that children and the elderly should be cautious with it. It recommends going to a registered practitioner of Chinese medicine if the therapy is sought.