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Cupping: Ancient Techniques - Modern Benefits

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

From Steph Curry and Michael Phelps, to Lady Gaga and Lizzo, many athletes and celebrities have openly praised the benefits of cupping.

On social media, people proudly show off pictures of their post treatment cupping marks. So, what exactly is all the hype about, and can you benefit too?

What is cupping?

Cupping, also known as Myofascial Decompression (MFD), dates back thousands of years, spanning across the globe. In fact, Egyptian hieroglyphics on the temple of Kom Ombo, depict cups alongside other medical instruments. Additionally the Ebers Papyrus, written in 1550 BC, making it one of the oldest known medical textbooks, describes the uses and benefits of cupping. Cupping is an ancient healing therapy that some people use to ease pain. A provider places cups on your back, stomach, arms, legs, or other parts of your body. Inside the cup, a vacuum or suction force pulls skin upward.

How does cupping work?

Silicon or plastic cups are applied on or around the target area by your massage therapist, or chiropractor. Sometimes your provider will glide the cups around to warm up the muscles before they are eventually left in place for a few minutes. These cups create a suction which you may experience as a tightening, or pulling sensation. Suction from cupping draws fluid into the treated area. This suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin. Your body treats the cupping area like an injury. It sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process. Some people theorize that cupping clears the pores and releases toxins.

The suction opens up tense areas by lifting superficial muscles and tissues away from deeper ones, while simultaneously encouraging the flow of blood, lymph, and interstitial fluids. When performed at the beginning of a treatment, it helps the muscles to stretch and soften, allowing your doctor or therapist to work more deeply once removed.

What exactly does cupping treat?

People mostly use cupping to relieve conditions that cause pain. Some people say it also helps with chronic (ongoing) health issues.

Cupping may ease symptoms of:

  • Arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis

  • Back pain, neck pain, knee pain and shoulder pain

  • Breathing problems, such as asthma

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

  • Gastrointestinal disorders, such as irritable bowel disease (IBD)

  • Headaches and migraines

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

After an intense workout, this technique can help to facilitate muscle and ligament healing by increasing the flow of blood and lymph, and expelling metabolic waste such as lactic acid. If you have chronic pain or stiffness, as many of us do in the shoulder, back, and hip areas, cupping can increase your range of motion, thus decreasing pain and stiffness. You know, those pesky bumps commonly referred to as “knots”? The suction created by cupping assists in releasing these knots, or adhesions in the muscles.

If you're working through pelvic pain due to digestive or menstrual disorders, cupping on the abdomen may help to relieve your symptoms. To see this type of treatment in action, click the link below to watch Dr. Hickey’s video: click here.

Does cupping leave marks on the skin?

They may feel a bit tender afterwards, though many people don’t notice the feeling at all. They look similar to bruises, though they tend to fade quicker depending on your skin type. We have a video for that too: click here.

In Summary

Ultimately, cupping encourages overall detoxification, muscle healing, and stress relief. If you would like to try cupping, you can request to incorporate it into a massage treatment with Amanda Rae, LMT, or to your chiropractic treatment with Dr. Hickey, Dr Morphet, or Dr. Lauderman.

By: Amanda Rae

Licensed Massage Therapist at ANH Wellness

Disclaimer: "The information including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment."

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