Cupping is a modality of traditional Chinese medicine in which glass cups are suctioned to the skin using heat to create a vacuum. This therapy helps to eliminate toxins, relieve congestion, improve circulation and relieve muscle tension. The cups can be left stationary or slid along pre-oiled skin, depending on the ailment. While cups can be applied to just about any area of the body, it is common to have cupping performed on the back, neck, shoulders and thighs. Cupping is generally painless and can be as effective as massage for muscle problems. Versions of cupping can be found in many cultures from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

How does it work?

Cupping pulls blood to a region to stimulate healing. It is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles. As new blood is forced into the tissues around the cups the body will begin a process of new blood vessel formation called neovascularization. These new vessels can feed the tissues with nutrients and oxygen, leading to lasting pain relief.

While the tissues get saturated with fresh blood, the vacuum pulls stagnant blood out of the area. Where there is dead, static blood, lymph, cellular debris, pathogenic factors and toxins present in the body, cupping can leave marks which indicates that the stagnation has been moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface. These marks tend to fade in 2-5 days, and the more cupping you receive the less the bruising happens.

What are the benefits?
Cupping is like a reverse massage, using suction rather than pressure to relax the muscles. The heat and suction also work to bring fresh blood to a pain area and release blockages there. It is useful for back, neck and shoulder pain, and sciatica.

So to wrap up, cupping can help you overcome old and new injury by:

  1. Increasing circulation
  2. Increasing oxygenation and tissue delivery
  3. Remove old stagnant blood
  4. Cause micro trauma and beneficial inflammation
  5. Create new blood vessels
  6. Stretch fascia and connective tissue.

Cupping is helpful when used in conjunction with joint manipulation and dry needling. Cupping, like many holistic techniques works at different rates for different people.