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Curious About Cupping?

When you think about cupping, you probably think about those well-known, red, circular marks, but it is much more than that. The art of cupping has been around for many years! So why all the interest in it now?

The History of Cupping?

Originating from Ancient Chinese Medicine, Eastern medicine believes that cupping has a very effect on the body.

They believe that cupping primarily affects the energy channels in the body (the flow of “Qi”) and can have a positive effect on illnesses/sicknesses, immune system function, and restoration of the body’s natural flow of energy. They often use what is referred to as “fire” cupping or “wet” cupping and their techniques are typically passive in nature.

Current Concepts in Cupping?

Western medicine believes that the benefits of cupping can:

-decrease pain

-increase speed of healing and recovery

-provide a decompression effect to an area

-provide a neuromuscular, relaxation effect of targeted musculature

-release soft tissue and connective tissue restrictions for improved tissue gliding and mobility

-increase blood flow/circulation/nutrient exchange between tissues

-improve movement quality and movement patterns of a targeted joint/region

Cupping utilizes negative pressure via suction cups to create lifting of the skin and underlying tissue layers. This can provide a decompression affect of those layers and allow for greater ease of gliding and improved mobility. This decompression affect is unlike most manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue massage, instrument assistance soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), active release techniques, etc. making cupping unique.

Dry cupping and a technique referred to as “Myofascial Decompression” (MFD) is often utilized consisting of cupping techniques with specific active movement of the targeted joint/body region to maximize tissue gliding and mobility in a manner that is conducive to functional movements.

Common Uses of Cupping/MFD?

-Muscle Imbalances

-Movement pattern dysfunctions/imbalances

-Postural dysfunctions

-Scar mobility

-Tendonopathy (“tendonitis”)


-Poor muscle activation

-Joint and muscle stiffness/tightness/contracture

-Post surgical management

-Sports medicine rehab

Common Areas that Respond Well to MFD/Cupping?

-Neck -Knee

-Shoulder -Quad

-Forearm -Hamstring

-Back -Calf

-IT Band -Foot


Is Cupping Safe?

Despite possibilities of mild soreness, tenderness, and the intimidating, red, circular marks/bruises it leaves behind, dry cupping is a safe treatment method to those who are deemed appropriate for it. Those marks that are simply a response to the negative pressure and increased blood flow to the area, should mostly resolve on their own within a couple days to a week.

Cupping/MFD should NOT be used on open wounds, on anyone with a serious heart condition or vascular compromise, active TB, hemophilia, active cancer, high fever or influenza, skin disorders or over hernias. As most techniques, caution should be used for those during pregnancy. Caution should also be used for sensitive areas of the body, for those with thin skin/susceptibility of skin tearing, and for those who regularly consume a blood thinner.

Does it Work?

Anecdotally in my experience, people do obtain a muscle relaxation effect with decreased pain and improved tissue mobility in the treatment area. I often perform cupping in the form of MFD with specific movements to improve skin and facial layer gliding while the cups

provide a lifting effect.

I also follow all cupping sessions with specific exercises and/or education to facilitate LONG TERM CHANGES! This is an extremely important aspect to remember; that cupping should not be performed in isolation.

Come on into Redemption Physical Therapy and see if you could benefit from this technique!

Redeem your health; Redeem your life!

Written by: Marissa Oxenford, PT, DPT, CF-L1 Trainer

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