Ever since Michael Phelps emerged from the Olympic swimming pool with those prominent red circles across his back and shoulders, cupping has been thrust into a spotlight and has sparked the curiosity of many.
The biggest question that most have is also the most straightforward: what, exactly, is cupping?
That’s where we come in! The ins and outs of cupping are something that we’re very passionate about as part of our commitment to your health and performance. So, let us answer that for you.
Cupping is the practice of placing cups (usually made of silicon, plastic, or glass) onto the skin and removing the air from inside of them. The result is a vacuum that sits on specific pressure points for both relaxing and therapeutic effect. The cups are left on the skin anywhere from five to twenty minutes depending on nature of the problem and are sometimes moved around if it’s deemed beneficial by the practitioner.
While cupping has only recently come into the public eye, you may be surprised to learn that the practice itself has been around for thousands of years. It has its roots in Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine, and has been used to treat varying conditions from depression and anxiety to intense muscle pain.
How Does Cupping Work?
Simply put, cupping works by drawing fluid into targeted areas through suction. By extracting the air from the cups, the tiny blood vessels located under the skin break (don’t worry – this is completely painless!) Your body then treats the area like it would any injury and sends more blood to it. This is what ultimately stimulates healing and results in a feeling of relief.
Unlike massage, in which pressure is applied to problematic areas, cupping draws pressure outward. By stimulating blood and oxygen flow to these areas, it promotes your body’s natural healing response – the results of which can range from lessened pain, relief from muscle tension, to helping your cells repair connective and scar tissue.
By encouraging blood and lymph to move into the tissues, it helps your body to clear out any wastes that have been accumulating. This ultimately promotes tissue repair and overall health.
What Does Cupping Treat?
While cupping is used to treat many conditions, its most popular application is to treat pain and/or discomfort in the muscles and joints. Because cupping encourages circulation and detoxification in localized areas, it can be very beneficial to those who are looking for pain relief and/or are looking to soothe their nervous systems.
This is one of the reasons why it has become so popular amongst professional athletes who need their bodies to stay in tip top shape!
Another reason for its rise in popularity is because it’s a very versatile practice that can be used to treat a host of other issues. This includes:
carpal tunnel syndrome
The benefits of cupping are varied and numerous because it is such a multipurpose practice. Cupping can be a great way to speedily increase blood flow to a particular muscle region while also helping to reduce overall symptoms.
So whether you’re an athlete, an office worker, or someone who is just looking to improve the health of their body, cupping may be a great way to get you where you’re looking to be.
What Are The Side Effects?
Now, we know what you’re thinking – the big red circle marks. It can look a little intimidating but don't let it fool you—they’re not bruises and they don’t hurt. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. A lot of people say it feels like a deep tissue massage.
The marks themselves are caused by the suction of the cups and the breaking of capillaries under the skin – which, as we talked about above, is all part of the process. They’re not permanent and most often disappear over the course of the week as the blood vessels repair themselves.
Some may also experience tenderness after the treatment, similar to the tenderness one might feel after getting a massage. The marks themselves are not painful and are only indicative of where the cups were and what areas they were targeting.
It’s important to note that cupping unhealthy tissue or areas that are prone to poor circulation will often result in the marks being darker. The color of the circles can also vary depending on the pressure applied and the duration of the treatment. This is completely normal and will not affect the fading of the marks in any way.
Is Cupping Right For Me?
This is a great question and the answer is… it could be!
It’s important to discuss what your specific goals are with your physiotherapist, massage therapist, or acupuncturist to find out what the best course of action will be for you. Your situation is as unique as you are, and many factors go into deciding what the best path to take is when it comes to your health. Transparent and open communication is key!
If you’d like to learn more about cupping and whether it may be a good option for you, give us a call or contact us online. We’d be more than happy to talk you through any questions or concerns that you may have about this or any other treatments that we have available. Your health is most important to us and we look forward to helping you get back on track!