Cupping therapy, everything you need to know

cupping therapy on back

Background of Chinese Cupping Therapy

Many people have only been aware of cupping therapy since Michael Phelps proudly rocked his unmistakable “cupping marks” at the Rio Summer Olympic Games. However, before cupping became a favorite therapy of athletes worldwide, cupping was a Chinese health technique dating back thousands of years.

Though there are many variations, at its most basic, cupping is the process of heating a series of small glass cups, then placing them on strategic points throughout the body. The heat pulls up your skin and muscle tissue, increasing blood flow to the area and providing a medical and therapeutic benefit.

Its popularity among athletes has prompted the therapy to become increasingly popular, to the point where it is now regularly offered by variety alternative health practitioners, including massage therapists, acupuncturists, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and physiotherapists.

cupping therapy
cupping therapy

How Does it Work?

It makes sense that many massage therapists are now offering some version of Chinese cupping therapy–in fact, you could almost think of cupping therapy as an ‘inside-out’ version of massage. Whereas massage applies pressure to your muscles, suction utilizes the same kind of pressure to pull your muscle, skin, and tissues upward.

The therapist will heat the cups (typically made of glass, but earthenware, silicone, and bamboo cups also exist) and then place them on your body. As the air inside the cups cools down, it creates a vacuum.

The cupping therapy set allows your muscle tissue to expand and stretch, which creates the necessary space toxins need to exit your cells. Once these toxins have been flushed into your lymphatic system (essentially, your body’s ‘filter’) your body can get rid of them via its normal waste processes.

How Can You Benefit from Cupping Therapy?

The following are just a few of the known health benefits of cupping:

Relief from Pain

Pain relief is by far the most common reason people choose to try cupping. It has been shown to relieve the pain associated with serious maladies, including cupping for fibromyalgia.

Part of its success at pain relief comes from its ability to pinpoint and address the precise area of soft tissue that is experiencing pain or swelling. By increasing oxygen and blood flow to these tissues, it helps naturally relax your muscles.

This is one of the reasons cupping is so popular as a form of back pain relief.

Improving Your Body’s Circulation

Circulation problems can cause a build-up of toxins in your tissues, causing a range of serious health conditions. Cupping, by drawing more blood to specific tissues, can help improve this condition, especially when combined with proper hydration, can help to flush the toxins from a specific area.

Treatment for Allergies, Colds, and Other Ailments

Cupping is also a common treatment for allergy symptoms, as well as the symptoms of the common cold or influenza. The therapy provides stimulation to your lungs which helps them expel phlegm.

It can also provide a boost to your immune system by promoting the flow of lymphatic fluid and blood throughout your body.

Stress Reduction and Meditative Benefits

The old adage remains true: stress is a killer. Stress raises the levels of harmful chemicals such as cortisol in your body.

Many people use cupping in a similar way to a deep tissue massage (and often, in combination).

The practice itself, which usually involves periods of rest and stillness while the cups are attached to your body, provides some of these benefits too, as they can be a great time to practice meditation techniques, or simply to clear your mind from the daily stresses.

cupping therapy on foot

What Will You Experience During Cupping Therapy?

Q: Is cupping painful?

A: No

While many describe the sensation as ‘odd’ or ‘unusual’, it is certainly not painful. It pulls on the fascia and you may feel the therapy is very comfortable.

Q: How long do cupping bruises last?

A: It depends…

Different factors including the length of the cupping massage, type of cupping massage (i.e. fire cupping vs. dynamic cupping), as well as individual health factors (such as circulation) can influence how long an individual’s cupping marks may last.

In general, though, you can expect the marks to last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Possible Side Effects

Despite being quite safe overall, a few possible side effects of a cupping detox session may include:

  • Discomfort
  • Minor Burns or Skin Irritation
  • Prolonged cupping bruises (lasting longer than two weeks)

Various Techniques & Methods for Cupping Therapy

Fire Cupping

Fire cupping is the traditional method, in which the cupping therapy set is heated over a flame. This shouldn’t be cause for concern–it’s quite safe and has no added risks over any other types of Chinese cupping therapies.

Dynamic Cupping

One of the most popular modern methods is dynamic cupping–in which the therapist uses the same suction technique, but moves the cups around continuously. This method is particularly good for stimulating your lymphatic system. It’s also the method of choice for people who are interested in Chinese cupping therapy or cupping detox, but don’t want to deal with the marks.

Discovering the Benefits that Cupping Can Bring You

By now, we’ve covered just a few of the many reasons why you should try cupping therapy for yourself. Whether you suffer from varicose veins, high blood pressure, or any number of conditions, the unique healing properties of Chinese cupping therapy can help you lead a healthier, happier life.

We strive to have you to try our services. Both our physiotherapy clinics in Milton and Pickering provide cupping, by experienced and licensed therapist.

Cupping therapy, everything you need to know