Since the 2016 Summer Olympics cupping has become a much more common practice.
We can thank a few celebrities (Michael Phelps, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston) for bringing awareness to this modality. Cupping has been around for centuries with some of the earliest documentation coming from Egyptian and Asian cultures. Throughout history many different civilizations practiced cupping using many different types of vessels to create suction on the body.
So what is cupping and how does it work? I get asked this question commonly from my patients who are curious about it but have not had the opportunity to receive it. Today's cups are typically made from silicone, acrylic or glass and are used as a vacuum therapy. When the cup is applied it creates a suction that pulls the layers of the soft tissue, allowing them to separate. This allows blood and tissue fluids to flow in and out of the area more easily, boosting healing. With an increase of blood more oxygen comes into the muscles, which makes them much happier. The separation of soft tissues also creates more space for the connective tissues, called fascia. Fascia is an important part of movement and when it is constricted causes restriction in movement. Another great benefit of cupping is the negative pressure sensation it gives to the body. It is not often our nervous system gets to experience that response, which aids in helping the nervous system handle deeper pressure without the pain.
In massage we use cupping in a couple different ways. One form is called dynamic cupping, where we slide the cups across the tissues. Moving the cups this way creates a shearing force to the facia layers, allowing further break up of those fibers and adhesions (knots). The other manner is static cupping, where we leave the cups in one place for no more than 5 minutes. I like to use static cupping on tissues that are knotted together, or still feel stuck after warming them up. Using static cupping is where we typically see the traditional circle marks (called petechiae) associated with cupping. Not all of my clients are ok with marking but want to gain some of the benefits from cupping and that's when I will use dynamic cupping. I have personally used cupping in my massages for almost two years now and have noticed my patients benefiting from prolonged relief when used in treatments consistently.
If you're interested in trying cupping out during your next massage treatment call our clinic, (253) 927-0660. Our Patient Care Coordinators can get you schedule with one of our therapists that uses cupping in their treatments.