Could Cupping Help You?

June 13, 2022

Guiding you to discover ways to live and feel better, whether through the therapeutic touch of massage or valuable advice to elevate your self-care routine.

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Cupping can be used to relieve musculoskeletal pain and tension, nerve and fascial entrapment, and fascial adhesions.

There are many theories as to how cups actually create results. The most likely possibilities are that there is a calming affect on the nervous system, a circulatory response and change to the resting tone of muscle tissue.

Scientifically proven results of cupping therapy include decrease in client’s perception of pain/disability and increases in range of motion when there is a restriction present. These are the benefits that have evidence behind them. Everything else is guesswork.

Cupping therapies use various methods to remove the air in containers to form a negative pressure, which makes the cups attach on the skin. Most often the sensation is enjoyable, relaxing, and likened to that of a deep tissue massage.

There are three main types of cups:

  1. Silicone cups are the most commonly use by massage therapists because they offer flexibility in placement. Silicone is a resilient material that is flexible and then returns to its resting shape once force is removed. This property makes silicone ideal for cupping.
  2. Fire cups are cups that are of a solid material—glass, ceramic and bamboo are popular—that have no valve in them. They use fire to create the compression and decompression of the air inside them.
  3. Plastic cups are made of various materials that give them more or less resistance to breakage. They will have a valve of some type that allows air to be removed and then sealed, so to equalize the pressure in the cups.  

We use silicone cups for manual cupping therapy. Our methods include a combination of static, dynamic, flash and glide. Breaking it down, sometimes we set the cups and leave them, sometimes we move them around.

To avoid hurting your skin, it is important that the stronger the suction and pulling force is, the less the retention time should be.

If cups are left on long enough to overfill the capillary bed, capillaries start to rupture, which leads to hematoma in the skin and the resulting marks/bruising that are common in cupping therapy. This is not an increase in circulation, but rather a diversion of blood to the capillaries in the tissue near to the cup.

If the capillaries start to break, the argument can be made that the technique is decreasing circulation because blood is being taken out of circulation. The body, of course, can adapt to this easily, as the amount of hematoma is relatively small and will usually go away within 7 days.

There are 3 ways that cupping leaves an impression on your tissue.

  1. The rim of the cup with leave an indentation in the tissue because of the difference in pressure between the two areas.
  2. There will be small swollen area created as the fluid is pulled toward the area of suction.
  3. The area is inundated with blood, this will turn the skin red and is a hyperemia. If the cups are left on longer, or the amount of blood brought to the area by the suction overwhelms the capillaries, they will burst, leaking blood into the tissues. This is a hematoma, and it will take anywhere from days to weeks to clear away, depending on the client’s tissue healing capability.

Cupping marks are not bruises because:

  1. the definition of bruise includes the word impact so cupping is not a bruise because there is no impact
  2. they do not change color like bruises as they resolve
  3. they are not tender

Cupping is recommended if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • lower back pain
  • neck and shoulder pain
  • headache and migraine
  • hypertension
  • scars and adhesions
  • chronic pain
  • fibromyalgia

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