Cupping Therapy and Hijama

Interview with Michelle Gellis a leading Acupuncture and cupping therapist and educator - USA

1-      Please give us a detailed introduction about yourself, location, education, professional membership, current position and how, where and why you learned cupping therapy?

My name is Michelle Gellis, I am a licensed, Board Certified acupuncturist (NCCAOM),  My office is located in Fulton Maryland which is 1/2 way between Washington DC and Baltimore MD.  I have a bachelors degree in computer science and Business Administration and a masters degree in acupuncture.  I currently am a member of the Maryland Acupuncture Society.  I am a faculty member at the Tai Sophia Institute, which is a five element acupuncture school in Laurel Maryland. I also have a thriving private practice.  Additionally, I teach classes on acupuncture facial rejuvenation including facial cupping,  and facial Gua Sha. I have been trained in cupping therapy at Tai Sophia and I have also taken classes with various instructors, including seminars given by the maryland acupuncture society and Ping Zhang.

2-      Please, give us some details about any published clinical trial, paper, article, book of you?

  I have written articles for Acupuncture Today, also for local papers and journals, and I assisted in editing the facial rejuvenation chapter in the Acupuncture Desk reference volume 2 (David J Kuoch). To date I have not published any clinical trials.

3-      Give us a detailed description about the cupping therapy type you use, how to do this type, for what conditions, number of treatment prescribed and how many treatments considered a prescribed course of cupping therapy?

I use many different types of cupping therapy.  I use fire cupping for body conditions such as pain along the meridians, hip, back and shoulder pain and also for acute illness such as chest colds.  For facial rejuvenation I use bulb type suction cups. This is a highly specialized training, which does not leave any marks on the face.  Facial rejuvenation cupping can help to clear rosacea, release deep lines on the face, increase blood flow to the skin and stimulate collagen.

The number of treatments is highly dependant on the type of condition I am treating.  For body conditions, I typically include cupping with an acupuncture and moxa or heat lamp treatment.  For facial rejuvenation, cupping is done after facial rejuvenation with needles and before I perform facial Gua Sha.

 In the early stages (tai yang) of a disease,  a 'cold' in western medicine, one or two treatments of cupping in two consecutive days can usually expel the pathogen. Once it has entered the later stages with high fever, (yang Ming) it can take more treatments and I typically do not see patients in my office that are that ill. 

 For pain related issues such as back, hip, shoulder pain, I tell my patients it will typically take a minimum of six treatments. Sometimes relief is felt after the first treatment, but for the effects to last, patients should continue treatment beyond the initial relief. These treatments are usually once a week. 

 A full course of facial rejuvenation acupuncture and cupping treatments is from 12-20 treatments. This range depends on the health of the skin and the lifestyle of the patient. These treatments are spaced either once or twice a week. 


4-      Give the new cupping therapists the key of success and the tips you gained from your practice?

The key to success with cupping is making an appropriate diagnosis.  whether to leave the cups in one place or to move them around, how long to leave them, and whether to tonify or sedate the area is dependant on the condition you are treating. I can not emphasize enough how important proper training is, especially in the case of facial cupping.

5-      Please, describe in details the best and the difficult case that you treated by cupping therapy?

The best way to speak of clinical cases is by speaking of them in generalities.  The most difficult cases are those in which a condition has persisted for a long time and has effected the nerves as well as muscles and tendons (for example sciatica).  Cases which respond most quickly are those which involve small muscle groups such as a shoulder versus a large group such as a hip.  Facial cupping is very effective for sinus congestion, TMJ, stroke paralysis and Bells palsy.

6-      Describe the most noted side effect of cupping therapy and how you deal with it?

The most noted side effect of cupping is the marks that it can leave.  I deal with this by first speaking with my patient and telling them that there may be marks on them after I am done.  If at all  possible I move the cups frequently as not to leave marks on the skin.  Occasionally there is localized pain along the channel when cupping, such as with cupping down the leg or on the lower back.  In this case, less suction is used.

7-      How you see the future of cupping ?

Cupping has been around for a very long time.  I can see the future going more towards the cosmetic benefits such as cellulite reduction, and facial and chest rejuvenation

8-      In your opinion, what is the theory behind the cupping therapy effect?

Cupping theory is that it opens the channels, drains toxins, regulates skin and muscles, and create a healthy flow of blood and chi.  Some of the functions of cupping are that it can clear heat and expel wind and dampness, it can reduce pain and swelling locally, it can also promote circulation of blood and chi.

9-      Your recommendation to enhance the practice?

My recommendation would be that any individual interested in adding cupping to their practice be properly trained.  Done improperly cupping therapy can exacerbate an already excess condition or deplete a deficient condition.

10-   How people can contact you?

Anyone interested in contacting me can email me at or visit my website for more information about facial rejuvenation cupping classes