Interview with Akram El Sobky

You’ve probably heard of cupping during the last Olympics, but it’s been growing in popularity recently, with trainer Akram Elsobky posting about it. So we caught up with Akram and asked him to give us a quick lesson about cupping therapy.



“It all started in Egypt!” Akram told us. The Ebers Papyrus, written in 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the Western world, describes the Egyptians use of cupping, while mentioning similar practices employed by Saharan peoples. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems.

So What Exactly is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is made by applying suction on certain points along the body using the cups (glass or plastic). With cupping we are moving blood from the interior of the body to the surface. Simply, with this movement we are able to get things that have been sitting in the body for while to be recognized and treated by the body easily.

The purpose of cupping can be physical or emotional—just as those who get acupuncture might describe a  “release” when the needles hit a certain trigger point, cupping operates in the same way from a traditional Chinese medicine standpoint. From our spinal column, we have nerves that leave each vertebra and connect to each organ. We have to put into consideration that getting blood flowing in the body is naturally healing, and that’s exactly how cupping works.

Does it really work? 

That’s a very controversial question, but a recent 2016 study stated that people suffering from neck and back pain receiving cupping therapy were cured by 50% after only one treatment. Cupping is used to treat physical pain such as muscle knots, trigger points, swelling, headaches, migraines and low immunity, and it’s used by athletes all over the world to loosen the muscles, to encourage blood flow, and to calm the nervous system.

So does it hurt?

Everyone is fooled by the big red spots, and they think it hurts, but it actually feels more like a soft massage or maybe a little skin stretch, nothing more. And those spots disappear from 3-7 days depending on skin sensitivity, and it leaves absolutely no scars.

Are there different kinds of cupping?

There are two main types of cupping therapy:

  1. Dry cupping, which is a suction-only method
  2. Wet cupping, which may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding

Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used.

Akram leaves us with one piece of advice:

“Make sure you reach a trustworthy practitioner, not just a commercial one!”

So would you ever try cupping?