What is Cupping?

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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.

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Instagram @m_phelps00 Thanks @arschmitty for my cupping today!!! #mpswim #mp

What is Cupping?

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

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

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.

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Instagram @nataliecoughlin Laughing because it hurts so bad. Gonna leave a mark! #AthleteLife

Why You Should Try Cupping Massage

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.

12 comments on “What is Cupping?”

  1. Cori Reply

    This was a very informative post. I’d heard of cupping, pre-Olympics. My mom got it done once, and I think the state of her back traumatized me. I’ve never tried it though.

  2. Bree Hogan Reply

    I regularly have cupping sessions with my TCM practitioner. It can really help!

  3. roxy Reply

    This sounds pretty cool. I love getting massages and this almost seems like it would be more relaxing. Is the service expensive? I need to check for a place that does it near by!

  4. Angie Scheie Reply

    My friend does this for her vertigo and it helps a little. It was interesting seeing so many swimmers using this therapy. Great timing on this post!

  5. Amber Battishill Reply

    I was so intrigued by this during the olympics! Thanks for more info on it. I might have to keep it in mind for future injuries. I wonder if anyone even does it near me.

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