While the popularity of cupping has significantly increased in the past recent years, it isn’t a new practice. In fact, it was originally used by the ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Middle Eastern cultures. It is an ancient form of alternative medicine that is performed by placing cups on the skin, in order to create suction. Today, it is used as a way to relieve pain, promote relaxation, enhance blood flow, and ease inflammation. To find out more about how cupping may benefit you, contact HealthQuest Physical Therapy today.
How is cupping performed?
Cupping is a fairly intricate process. A physical therapist will begin by placing a flammable substance (such as alcohol or herbs) into the cup and setting it on fire. Once the fire subsides, the cup will be placed upside down onto your skin. As the air in the cup begins to cool, it creates a vacuum, causing the skin to rise and blood vessels to expand.
In some more modern practices, rubber pumps will be used instead of fire to create the vacuum, and silicone cups are sometimes used to create a massage effect.
Why is cupping performed?
Cupping can sometimes be described as a “tissue distraction release” technique. During the cupping process, the cups are glided across different areas of the body in order to lift and separate tissue. This works to enhance the release of the interfaces between the neural tissues, fascia, skin, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. It relaxes muscles, releases trigger points, improves lymphatic flow, increases local circulation, and releases scar tissue adhesion. Evidence supports cupping as an effective treatment method for several conditions, such as chronic neck pain, low back pain, and fibromyalgia.
There are three forms of cupping techniques: longitudinal, cross fiber, and circular. The most common form is longitudinal, where the cup is glided longitudinally across the muscle fibers. Cross fiber is used when it is believed that the tissue is scarred. Circular is typically used at the end of the session, in order to ensure that all areas were covered.
It is no secret that cupping is a common and popular practice among athletes. In fact, several athletes from the 2016 Rio Olympics used cupping. A running patient with over a year history of iliotibial band (ITB) pain reported instant relief following a three-minute session of cupping. The technique was repeated a week later. Following only two cupping sessions, he was symptom-free and returned to his usual running.
While there are some apprehensions toward cupping, there is a real science behind it. The suction within the cups is created with negative pressure, which helps to increase hydration and blood flow to body tissues, ease up adhesions, and eliminate excess fluids. It is a versatile treatment that can be modified for the necessary treatment of your condition, whether you are in need of deep tissue massage or lymphatic drainage.
It is important to note that cupping is not a treatment method that will be performed on skin with wounds, infection, burns, or active inflammation. It can sometimes create bruises on the skin that can last up to two weeks. Bruises typically resolve themselves with time and should not be of concern.
How can I get started?
There are several benefits to cupping. It can boost your skin health, help with respiratory issues, and even improve digestion. It is also used to speed up the recovery time of certain injuries and ailments, in addition to reducing symptoms.
Do you have an injury or health condition that is limiting you from living your life the way you want? If so, don’t hesitate to contact HealthQuest Physical Therapy today. We’ll help you set up a consultation with one of our licensed Southeast Michigan physical therapists to figure out if cupping is right for you!