Therapeutic cupping is a type of alternative medicine that originated in China and has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions. It involves the use of glass, plastic, or silicone cups that are placed on the skin to create a vacuum-like seal, which stimulates blood circulation, detoxification, and lymphatic drainage.
What is Cupping Therapy?
Therapeutic Cupping, or Cupping therapy, is a Chinese medicine technique that has been used for centuries for many different conditions. Glass, plastic, or silicone cups are placed on the skin, creating a vacuum-like seal from the lack of oxygen.
The superficial muscle layer is drawn up into the cup, which stimulates the circulation of blood, breaks up adhesions, and creates a pathway for toxins to be drawn out of the body through the lymphatic system.
It has been found that cupping therapy can affect tissues up to 4 inches deep; affecting blood vessels, fascia, muscles, and scar tissue.
Types of Cupping Techniques
There are different types of cupping techniques, but the two most popular are stationary and gliding cups.
One popular type of therapeutic cupping is stationary cupping, where one or several cups are placed in the treatment zone for 5-15 minutes. This can help increase range of motion, break up adhesions, and promote healing in scar tissue and chronic injury sites.
Another type of therapeutic cupping is gliding cups, which involves applying a topical ointment or liniment to the skin first and then gently moving the cups across the skin, usually along meridians or fascia/muscle planes. This technique can help detoxify metabolic debris in muscle tissue, fascia, and skin, increase lymphatic drainage and promote circulation.
After a therapeutic cupping session, it may feel like you have just received a deep tissue massage. Typically with massage, you press into the tissues, whereas with therapeutic cupping, you pull the tissues up.
How Therapeutic Cupping Works
Cupping therapy is a gentle suction pulling away tension and pressure from tight and painful muscles or areas of the body. Afterwards it feels like you have just received a deep tissue massage. Dr Axe explains more about the therapy here.
Typically with massage you press into the tissues, whereas cupping is the opposite where you pull the tissues up.
Depending on the amount of suction and the state of the underlying tissues, it can leave circular marks that vary from a light yellow to dark purple.
In Chinese medicine it is believed the darker the marks, the more stagnation of qi and blood. Stagnation leads to pain and dysfunction or imbalance within tissues, so we want to clear that stuff out before it causes problems.
From a Western standpoint, cupping creates more space in between the tissue layers to get rid of dead cellular debris, excess fluids and toxins, and breaks up scar tissue. The marks are caused by this debris being pulled up and deposited under the skin; which is actually the most effective place for the lymphatic system to drain it away.
What Can Myofascial Cupping Therapy Treat?
Myofascial cupping therapy (therapeutic cupping, or cup therapy) can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including:
- Tight and stiff muscles
- Sciatica and piriformis syndrome
- IT band pain
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Plantar fasciitis
- Respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis
- Emotional imbalances such as anxiety, depression, and stress
- Migraines and headaches
- High blood pressure by calming the nervous system
Benefits of Therapeutic Cupping Therapy!
Therapeutic cupping, also considered to be called Cup Therapy, has several benefits.
- Stimulates whole body relaxation response (parasympathetic response)
- Stimulates oxygenation and detoxification of blood while promoting a feeling of lightness and relief of pressure
- Detoxifies metabolic debris in muscle tissue, fascia, and skin
- Increases range of motion, breaks up adhesions, and promotes healing in scar tissue and chronic injury sites
- Increases lymphatic drainage & promotes circulation
In addition to the above-mentioned benefits, therapeutic cupping is also believed to have a positive impact on the body’s energy flow, or Qi (pronounced “chee”). In Chinese medicine, it is believed that when Qi is blocked or stagnant, it can lead to pain and illness. By using cup therapy to stimulate blood flow and clear away stagnation, it is believed that the body’s energy flow can be restored, leading to improved health and well-being.
After a therapeutic cupping session, circular marks may appear on the skin.
These marks can vary in color from light yellow to dark purple, and it is believed in Chinese medicine that the darker the marks, the more stagnation of qi and blood. Stagnation leads to pain and dysfunction or imbalance within tissues, so clearing out the stagnation before it causes problems is essential.
Western medicine believes that these marks are caused by debris being pulled up and deposited under the skin, which is actually the most effective place for the lymphatic system to drain it away.
Caution for cup marks – may take a few days to a week to fade completely (Important to remember if you have a wedding or special event to attend)
Caution in keeping area covered from extreme changes in temperature (hot sauna or cold AC) directly after a treatment. In Chinese medicine cupping opens your pores, making you susceptible to catching a cold
There are some precautions to keep in mind when considering therapeutic cupping. It is important to find a qualified and experienced practitioner, as improper cupping technique can lead to bruising, skin irritation, or other complications. It is also important to avoid cupping on areas of the body where the skin is thin or where there are existing wounds or injuries. Additionally, individuals who are taking blood thinners or who have bleeding disorders should avoid cupping therapy.
Overall, therapeutic cupping is a safe and effective form of alternative therapy that can be used to address a variety of health concerns. Whether you are dealing with pain, tension, or other health issues, cupping therapy may be worth considering as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.