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If you’ve been following the Olympics this year, I’m sure you’ve seen those signature telltale marks of cupping massage on several of the athletes. The round, red or purple marks are certainly hard to miss, and I bet you’re wondering – What exactly is cupping? While this healing therapy might be gaining notice thanks to the Olympics, it’s far from new. Cupping has been around for thousands of years and in numerous cultures. The Ancient Egyptians used cupping, as well as the Chinese, Greeks, Muslims, and many Europeans, just to name a few.
Essentially, the mechanics of cupping are the opposite of massage. Massage therapy uses pressure to relieve muscle tension and pain, increase circulation, and improve range of motion, whereas cupping therapy uses suction to achieve the same results. Cupping is the practice of placing glass or plastic cups on the skin and then creating a vacuum, either manually or with fire, to suck the air out of the cup. The skin, tissue, and muscle beneath the cup is drawn upward into the cup as a result of the negative pressure. The negative pressure stretches the muscle, skin, and tissue leading to an increase in circulation, improved lymph flow, and release of fascial tension. Another term for cupping massage is Myofascial Decompression.
There are two main applications of cupping therapy: static cupping and dynamic cupping.
Static cupping is the practice of applying cups to the client and leaving them in place. The cups are left on the skin for as little as one minute and up to ten or fifteen minutes.
Dynamic cupping is the practice of applying cups to the client and then sliding them across the skin. Cream, lotion, or massage gel is used to lubricate the skin so the cups can glide effortlessly along the skin.
Static and dynamic cupping are often used together along with massage therapy. Whether static or dynamic cupping is used, a tightness is usually felt at the site of the cups. This sensation should not be painful, and is often relaxing. Massage cupping is most often used on the back, but works well on any fleshy area. Cupping will sometimes leave red or purple bruise like marks on the skin after a treatment – just like what you’ve been seeing on all those Olympic athletes. These marks usually fade in a day or two, but in some cases will last up to two weeks. They are not painful.
Cupping massage offers many benefits and is a good treatment option for most people. The only way to achieve negative pressure on muscle, skin, and tissue is through cupping. By combining the positive pressure of massage with the negative pressure of cupping allows the muscles, tissue, and skin to be both compressed and stretched in a unique way that can lead to more relief from tight muscles, faster recovery from injury, increased range of motion, and a reduction in pain. Combining both therapies loosens muscles in a different way than just massage alone.
Massage cupping also improves the condition of your skin. The increase of blood flow from cupping helps bring oxygen and nutrients to your skin while stimulating lymphatic flow to eliminate toxins. The appearance of cellulite is also lessened with the use of cupping therapy. Some studies have even found cupping to be effective in the treatment of acne. Fine lines and wrinkles can also be diminished with the use of cupping.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses cupping to treat a number of illnesses. Cold and flu symptoms, headaches, intestinal disorders, arthritis, kidney disorders, and liver disorders are just a few issues treated with cupping. Before seeking out cupping for medicinal purposes, make sure you find an accredited practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
You don’t need to be an elite athlete to experience the benefits of cupping massage – cupping is for everyone.
Still not sure about cupping massage? Why not give it a try and see for yourself? Click here to book a cupping massage at Palm Oasis Massage.
One of the questions I get asked most often as a massage therapist is, “What’s the difference between Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Sports Massage?” Most people tend to think the difference is how much pressure and pain is involved in the massage, but it’s not quite that simple. In fact, if you ask 10 massage therapists this question, you’ll get 10 different answers, ranging from simple to technical. Swedish Massage is the grandparent of almost all modern massage techniques, and, therefore, deep tissue and sports massage draw most of their techniques directly from Swedish massage. The main difference between these modalities is how focused the work is and what the client hopes to achieve with the massage – relaxation, reduced muscle tension, or improved athletic performance for example.
Swedish massage is what most people think of when thinking of massage. It is a relaxing, therapeutic, rejuvenating massage that generally uses medium pressure* and encompasses work on the entire body instead of just one or two focus areas. Swedish massage eases muscle tension, reduces pain, relaxes the mind, and promotes many other health benefits. This type of massage is good for someone who doesn’t have any major areas of tension, pain, or injury and who wants a relaxing tranquil massage.
Most people assume deep tissue massage is the opposite of Swedish massage. Words like painful, intense, excruciating, and hard-core are often said when referring to deep tissue massage, but this doesn’t have to be the case and isn’t always true. Deep tissue massage is any massage work that is intended to address any of the muscles or tissues in the body that aren’t the most superficial layer of muscle and usually uses firm to heavy pressure*. This type of massage is typically more focused on problem areas of pain, tension, and/or injury and can be uncomfortable or even painful** depending on how tight or injured the muscle is, however, if there is no acute injury or presentation of significant muscle tightness, deep tissue massage can be achieved with medium to firm pressure and little to no discomfort.
A common misconception of sports massage is that it is the deepest massage of them all, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sports massage is the most focused of the three types of massage discussed here, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the deepest. The techniques used in a sports massage vary greatly and depend on what issues the client needs to address. Sports massage techniques are geared specifically towards helping improve athletic performance, whether that be improving range of motion, increasing flexibility, preventing injury during training, helping with recovery after an event or injury, or warming up before an event just to name a few. These goals don’t always call for aggressive, deep massage which can often be counterproductive.
The differences between Swedish, Deep Tissue, and Sports Massage are far fewer than what makes them alike. The amount of pressure necessary is much less indicative of the type of massage performed than most people think. It all comes down to the particular goal of each client and in turn, the intent and focus of the work the therapist will do. If you have any questions about the style of massage you would like to receive, make sure to discuss them with your massage therapist, as each individual therapist will have a different interpretation on the differences between massage modalities. To insure you get the most out of your session, clear communication is essential and a good therapist should welcome feedback at any point before, during, and after an appointment.
*Swedish massage on healthy muscle tissue often tends to also delve into the deeper layers of muscle, technically becoming a deep tissue massage even when only medium pressure is used. The opposite is also true when working on extremely tight muscles. Sometimes a muscle is so tense that no matter how much pressure is used it becomes impossible to truly work the deeper layer of muscle.
**Even if injury or tightness is presented, deep tissue massage still doesn’t have to be excruciatingly painful. If approached with patience and a skilled progression of pressure, much of the discomfort often associated with deep tissue massage can be eliminated.
Palm Oasis Massage is always open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Occasionally, however, we are able to extend our hours to include some Fridays and Saturdays. This month, our extended hours are:
Friday, August 7th 10 am – 5 pm
Friday, August 14th 5:30 pm – 8 pm
Saturday, August 15th 1 pm – 5 pm
Saturday, August 29th 2 pm – 6 pm
Our extended weekend hours usually fill up fast, so make sure to book early (but don’t hesitate to call to ask about same day availability!) You can book online or call 713-842-0459 to schedule your appointment!