Many people who are suffering from chronic pain are willing to try anything to feel better. Unfortunately, not everyone is aware of their full range of options. One of those options is cupping therapy. Though this practice may be new to you, it could help you with your pain.

What Is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is a form of alternative medicine that has been around for a long time. During cupping therapy, a therapist will affix plastic or glass tools shaped like small domes (or “cups”) to your skin by heating them to create a vacuum.

These cups may be of multiple sizes, and depending on your needs and the number of times you’ve experienced cupping, you may have anywhere between three to seven cups affixed for varying lengths of time.

History of Cupping

Though cupping is currently trendy in North America, the technique is nothing new.

Throughout history, cupping techniques and styles have often resembled the geographic locations they were practiced in, as well as utilizing a region’s local materials: animal horns, bamboo, ceramic, glass, metal, and plastic have all been used in this practice found in Ancient Egyptian, Chinese, Unani, Korean, Tibetan, and Latin American cultures, all of which have served the purpose of supporting the body’s ability to heal itself. (MedCrave)

Due to the long nature of its global success in helping people manage pain, it’s worth your while to learn more about the practical applications of cupping and how they might help you.

Practical Application of Cupping

Cupping might be an ancient practice but it’s still in use due to its practical applications.

Purpose of Cupping

Cupping can increase blood circulation by promoting blood flow to the areas where the cups are placed. This increased blood flow is helpful in relieving muscle tension and promoting cell repair.

This style of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) has proven effective in:

  • Increasing range of motion
  • Reducing adhesion between muscle/fascia
  • Promoting tissue healing
  • Lessening nervous system activity
  • Reducing muscle spasms
  • Improving lymphatic drainage
  • Decreasing overall pain

Cupping Therapy and Myofascial Release

If your doctor has recommended myofascial release as a physical therapy option, cupping therapy could actually be a good choice, as it is known for releasing tension and stiffness from targeted areas.

Cupping: Areas of Use

Cupping therapy is always targeted. Though cupping can technically be applied nearly anywhere on the body, the following are some of the most common.

  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Upper/Low back
  • Feet
  • Arms
  • Hands

The Role of Cupping in Physical Therapy

If you have never experienced cupping before, you could be nervous if you don’t know what to expect during this manual therapy session.

After assessing your body’s needs, particularly as related to your muscles, the therapist will perform the cupping technique. After applying a lotion as a skin barrier, the trained technician will apply the cups in one of two ways.

  • Stationary cups. Once a vacuum has been created, the cups will be left stationary for an average of fifteen minutes.
  • Moving massage cups. In some cupping sessions, after the vacuum has been created, the massage cups will be moved vigorously over the skin.

Prior to your treatment, your therapist will discuss your needs and which treatment you will be experiencing to best support your physical therapy.

What to Expect After Cupping

After a cupping session, there are a few things you can expect.

  1. Bruising. This can look startling, but it is completely normal.
  2. Redness. Again, if you’ve never tried cupping before, you may be surprised by the marks the procedure leaves behind on your skin.
  3. Light soreness. You will likely experience some tenderness around the cupping areas. Like the marks, it will quickly fade.
  4. Decrease in pain! This is by far the best side effect of cupping therapy.

If you or anyone you know is dealing with muscle aches or pains, please reach out to us at Cawley Physical Therapy at (570)-208-2787.