What is Cupping?

Cupping may be a newly introduced concept to many, but this Traditional Chinese Medicine modality is rumored to have been invented around 3000 BC and is used in holistic medicine practices around the world. Placing cups on bare skin, suction is applied to increase blood flow and decrease connective tissue tension (among a variety of other things). It is not uncommon to see elite athletes and celebrities with interesting looking circular bruises after receiving this treatment. 

Michael Phelps, Olympic gold medalist (below) with tell-tale cupping bruises on his right shoulder.

Types of Cupping

Traditionally, a flame is placed inside of a special glass cup shaped like a bulb, the flame is taken out and extinguished, then the cup is placed quickly upside down on lightly oiled skin (below).

The air inside the cup creates a vacuum as it cools, this causes the skin to rise inside the cup. Skin reddens as the blood vessels expand, this is what may cause bruising. Many practitioners utilize the simplified version of this by using squeezable silicone cups, as seen below….

…or a plastic cup that can be suctioned with a pump (below). The cups may be left in one position or moved around, depending on the desired effect. 

What Can Cupping Treat?

Why is this done? Acupuncturists and massage therapists may use cupping to decrease pain, inflammation, and tissue restriction, to increase blood flow and relaxation, and promote general well-being. Athletic trainers may use slightly different jargon to describe this treatment. Myofascial decompression (or MFD) is performed to target specific joints and muscles and decrease restrictions between the layers of skin, muscle, and connective tissue to increase range of motion. Causing a localized inflammatory response in the tissue is theorized to assist the body’s innate healing process by bringing more blood and oxygen to the affected area. Recipients may see more benefit from combining cupping with other therapies such as stretching, strengthening, massage or manual therapy, and acupuncture. 

Cupping (of the suction, not the fire variety) is a service that some of our massage practitioners here at Dr. Ibolit practice. If you would like to schedule a massage that incorporates this treatment, please give us a call and be sure to request a massage therapist who practices cupping.