Do you remember seeing athletes during the 2016 Summer Olympics with dark circular bruises on their arms and back? Most notably, American swimmer Michael Phelps was seen with these spots on his shoulders and upper back. While the popularity of cupping has significantly increased in the past recent years, it isn’t a new practice. In fact, the earliest accounts of cupping can be dated back to 1550 BC. 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?
Your therapist will carefully places the specialized cups on the injured areas of the body that have lesions and knots. He or she will then hand-pumped the cups to create a vacuum seal. Once the suction is created between the cup and the skin, the cups are left on the skin for approximately 3-5 minutes. The suctioning effect of cupping lifts the skin from the tissues underneath and allows for the release of the fascia and muscles underneath. In addition, the lifting effect also allows for improved blood flow to the area, bringing nutrients to the site and transports waste materials away.
Effects of Cupping
Cupping allows for increased blood flow and oxygen to reach affected areas, which can help with muscle relaxation. This treatment can be beneficial in reducing trigger points, improving myofascial tissue tension, and reducing pain. Cupping therapy may cause bruising, discomfort, or soreness. The bruises from cupping can last for a few days or a week after a treatment session.
Benefits of cupping
- Decrease pain
- Speed up recovery times
- Improve movement quality
- Break up adhesions/scar tissue already present
- Decrease myofascial dysfunction
- Reduce scar tissue formation
- Release trigger points and decrease tightness in a muscle and the surrounding fascia
- Increase space between the tissues allowing for better fluid and nutrient exchange
- Increase blood flow
- Improve scar mobility
- Decrease trigger points
- Release connective tissue adhesions within the tissues
Why is cupping performed?
Cupping can sometimes be described as a “tissue distraction release” technique or Myofascial Decompression. 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.
While there are some apprehensions toward cupping, there is 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.
Conditions that Cupping May Help
- Pain: Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain, Back Pain, Knee Pain
- Orthopedic conditions
- Sports medicine
- Scar adhesions
- Post-surgical recovery
- Muscle and movement imbalances
- Postural issues
- Trigger points
- Myofascial tissue tension
- Skin Adhesions and Scar tissue
Do you still need formal physical therapy? YES!
One of the biggest reasons that cupping works is that it involves neuromuscular re-education. Just like all of our manual therapy techniques, it is not meant to be performed in isolation. It is still very important that you continue your exercises to make lasting improvements in your mobility, strength, stability and movement patterns.
How can I get started?
Cupping therapy can be utilized as a component of and complement to physical therapy treatment to help improve pain. If you have an injury or health condition that is limiting you from living your life the way you want, 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!