IF YOU’VE SEEN LARGE, perfectly round discolorations on an athlete’s skin, you’ve seen the outward signs of cupping. Cupping involves creating negative pressure on tissues. A therapist uses a cup to create a vacuum that draws the skin up and away from the muscles (Figure Below). This is the opposite of negative pressure used during a regular massage, where the practitioner physically presses on the tissue to push out the metabolic waste and break up adhesions.
There are a variety of ways to create negative pressure with cupping. Glass cups are usually used because they are durable and easy to sanitize. Different sized cups are used for different sized muscles and different applications (click the video below).
Figure 23‑2: Different sizes of cups are used for different regions. In the video above we show small cups used for the neck.
The vacuum in the cup can be created a variety of ways. One involves heating the air inside the glass cup and then placing it on a trigger point or acupressure point. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum, and the skin gets drawn up into the cup. A newer technique uses a pump to suck the air into the cup to create a vacuum, as shown above.
As the skin gets sucked into the cup, the skin layer separates from the muscle layer, breaking up adhesions in the fascia. Leaving the cup at these points for a few minutes brings more blood to these tissues. As a result, the tissues heal, and their function improves.
Leaving a cup on a spot for too long can cause bruising or blistering, so be sure to communicate to your practitioner if the cups are getting uncomfortable.
Showing the skin of the temporal region being sucked into the cup, bringing more blood to the region, facilitating healing.
A New Application for This Ancient Tool
Some massage therapists use cups as a massage tool. They apply oil to the skin first so they can glide the cup over a region (figure to the left). This type of massage is a negative pressure massage. Unlike a regular massage, in which positive pressure squishes metabolic waste out of the muscles, a massage therapist can use the negative pressure of the cup to milk metabolic waste out of the region by gliding the cup over a region.
You may prefer this negative massage to a deep-tissue (positive) massage when you are too tender to handle pressure to a tissue. Some find this technique more comfortable. Some prefer positive pressure. The only way to know which you prefer is to try each and decide for yourself which feels more comfortable and effective for you.
Usually, cupping results in reddening of the skin. I believe that if you bruise heavily afterwards, the practitioner used too much suction on you. More is not always better. Bruising is a sign of tissue damage, not healing, but sometimes a little bruising is unavoidable. When cupping is done well, bruising should be minimal, and the reddening of the skin should fade within a few days.
I have heard that when done well, cupping also helps with wrinkles because it brings blood to the surface, feeding the skin and keeping it plump. Bonus!
Cupping Therapy is used to treat:
Circulatory and muscle disorders
- Joint injuries
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Elbow pain
- Wrist pain
- Back pain
- Knee pain
- Leg pain
- Foot pain
- Muscle spasms
- Tension headaches
- Trigger points in muscles
Advantages of Cupping Therapy include:
- Reducing or eliminating pain in a safe manner
- Noticeable decrease in swelling and inflammation
- Restoring lost movement and improving range-of-motion
- Stimulating the blood flow and lymphatic drainage which can help the body heal faster
Additionally, Cupping Therapy also assists in blood circulation and rushes recovery by stimulating endorphins.
You do not have to suffer with pain or stiffness.
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We have other instruments and techniques that help facilitate healing and reduce pain.
Active release technique (ART) involves pinning and stretching tight muscles through movement patterns to decrease muscle tension.
Graston treatment uses specialized tools to break up adhesions (scar tissue). To learn more about Graston, Click HERE.
Functional Movement Assessment:
Functional movement assessment uses a series of movement patterns to find compensations that may be causing your pain or hindering your performance in a certain activity.
Movement Specific Rehabilitation Exercises:
Movement Specific Rehabilitation Exercises are specific stability, mobility, or strengthening exercises designed for whatever movement or activity goals you may have. To learn more about how exercises can help, Click HERE
To learn more about electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), Click HERE.
To learn more about the Rapid Release Therapy (RRT) for muscle pain, Click HERE
To learn more about dry needling for pain and myospasm, Click HERE
Chiropractic Adjustments And Manipulative Therapy
To learn more about Chiropractic Spinal Adjustments and Manipulative Therapy, Click HERE
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