Cupping therapy clinics suction onto Sana’a

Published on 24 September 2012 in Health & Environment
Ahmed Dawood (author)

Ahmed Dawood

Cups are suctioned onto a patient’s body like a vacumn in order to increase blood flow.

Cups are suctioned onto a patient’s body like a vacumn in order to increase blood flow.

Cupping therapy clinics have visibly spread throughout many neighborhoods and streets in the capital city Sana’a. Despite cupping therapy’s growing popularity, the majority of those performing the traditional medical treatment are unqualified and inexperienced. Even worse, some are illiterate.

Cupping is a traditional, alternative medicine where cups are used as suctions on the skin to draw blood and ultimately increase blood flow.

Many practitioners of this ancient method open cupping clinics without a permit from the Ministry of Public Health and Population. The ministry, in essence, doesn’t permit the practice of this profession. However, some continue practicing the profession in order to eke out a living and make money.  

In Old Sana’a—in front of the Grand Mosque—many patients come to the house of Ahmed Al-Hajam, who was a well-known cupping therapy practitioner.

Al-Hajam died ten years ago, passing the practice to his wife who died three years later. However, before she died, she taught her three daughters how to perform the therapy.

Khairia, one of the three daughters, said she and her two sisters learned about cupping from their mother. She said patients still flock to the practice everyday. For Al-Hajam’s daughters, cupping is their only source of income.  

Once the patients arrive to Khairia’s home, she begins her work. She said she does not perform any medical tests on patients, and she said her work holds little risk for patients. For health and safety reasons, she said she is extremely careful and sterilizes all the tools in order to prevent any transmission of diseases.  

Disrespected profession

Although there are some Hadiths (instructions) by the Prophet Muhammad that indicate cupping therapy can be used to cope with various illnesses, the profession has been looked down upon in Yemen.

Ali Zaid Mutahar said cupping is the job of society’s persecuted people, indicating that the majority of tribal people don’t practice this job as a profession because they deem it a disgrace.

Currently, cupping clinics have become commonplace around Sana’a, and cupping therapy practitioners often promote their centers to attract more clients.

Dr. Radhwn Al-Jawzi, a cupping professional at the Al-Ihssan Cupping Center, said cupping heals those patients suffering from lethargy, headaches and rheumatism, denoting that he performs cupping on anyone who comes to him, be they sick or just wanting to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad.   

“There are some people who come on the seventeenth, nineteenth and twenty-second of each month of the Muslim calendar without any sickness,” he said. “But there are some instructions affiliated with the Prophet Muhammad regarding cupping. They ask for cupping just to follow his lead.”

Al-Jawzi said cupping has no side effects unless the act is improperly performed.

Concerning the medical tools used in cupping, he said he asks patients to bring their own appliances for health safety reasons. Once cupping is over, the patient takes his appliances with him, he said. This, he said, guarantees that they will be no transmission of diseases.

With the spike in cupping centers comes a lack of monitoring or evaluation of safety. There is no official entity in charge of monitoring centers and assessing the health risks.

Al-Jawzi holds a certificate from Syria in the field of cupping and labs. He said he is applying all that learned during his studies. But, he expressed regret about the stance of the Ministry of Public Health and Population deeming the ministry’s efforts unavailable to combat the spread of arbitrary cupping centers.