What is the cupping therapy? The cupping treatment is a great alternative form of medicine that helps with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and more. The trendy skin cupping therapy that I do for clients at my Eclectic Remedies Massage Studio actually dates back to 1,550 B.C. with the ancient Egyptians. They describe their ancient methods in the Ebers Papyrus which is one of the world’s oldest medical texts. When I do cupping massages at my spa in the Regent Square neighborhood, my first intention is to treat and relax my clients. Because I love to learn new ways to better help my clients, I knew this skin cupping therapy treatment I had to learn!

How is Cupping Done – Dry vs. Wet Cupping

Even though this ancient cupping treatment may look or sound scary, I promise it’s not! You may have seen pictures of cupping that look intimidating but those are pictures of wet cupping. Dry cupping massage is practiced by massage therapists like myself and doesn’t involved blood being released into the cups. Wet cupping involves small cuts being made in the skin whereas dry cupping massage does not involve any skin cuts whatsoever.

Cupping Treatment Benefits

What it can do for your body:

  • helps to relieve stress, and if you’re having digestive issues, skin cupping therapy can help lessen conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome and other digestive issues. Most digestive issues are either heightened by stress or a result of stress.
  • improves immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout your body If you have a cold, cupping can help with that as well. This will help your system to get rid of a cough, sickness or seasonal allergies.

What Does Cupping Treat

  • Circulatory System – Skin cupping therapy can stimulate vasodilation causing blood to flow which oxygenates the affected area helping you heal faster from wounds or fatigue.
  • Nervous System – Skin cupping therapy affects your skin’s sensory nerves, which can help inhibit pain receptors. By the way the silicone massage cups are placed on your spine, can influences your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which in turn, influences the nerves and ultimately, can help to alleviate pain in the surrounding areas and organs.
  • Endocrine System – The sunction cups strategically placed on your skin stimulates your body to produce hormones that will relax you like oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
  • Lymphatic System – This popular skin cupping treatment can help your lymphatic system function better by moving fluids to the lymph node sites which can flush your body of any inflammation. It can help your body get rid of stagnation which is comprised of lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, mineral build-up, by products of phagocytes, scar tissue, old blood/lymph, stress hormones, old medicine, neurotransmitters, and environmental agents such as chemicals or nicotine.

What is a cupping massage and how is skin cupping therapy done?

There are several types of cupping massage which involve placing a glass or plastic cup on your skin. Your massage therapist then will create a vacuum in the cup which will draw your skin, muscle and fascia into the cup. The two types of cupping are wet and dry cupping.

Wet vs. Dry Cupping


As mentioned earlier, wet cupping therapy involves a cut blood treatment where blood is released into the cups as your skin is punctured. This treatment stems from cupping and ancient Oriental medicine and is not practiced by massage therapists like myself. There’s a major difference in being treated by a practitioner of Chinese medicine versus a massage therapist… which is based on the length of time the skin therapy cups are on your skin.

However, a massage therapist like myself who does therapeutic cupping massages will use skin therapy cups to massage your body and won’t leave a cup on one spot for more than 5 minutes at a time. Someone who practices cupping the Oriental medicine way will typically leave the cups on your body for longer periods time (20 minutes or more).

Dry Cupping Therapy Benefits

During a dry cupping treatment, your therapist will apply a cup on your skin with the use of a pump. These plastic cups are usually removed through suction. This method will draw your blood and fluid away from any inflamed areas on your body and bring them to your skin’s surface. This process will lift, separate and decompress tissue via the vacuum that’s created. This dry cupping therapy can help the blood flow in your body and you can get it done as often as you’d like!

Facial Cupping Benefits

You can also have facial cupping done which stimulates collagen and elastin to help your skin appear firmer and younger. It can reduce inflammation in your face and helps circulate blood and move lymph fluid which will help in any healing or reduction of scarring. Facial cupping is a great way to treat aging skin, melasma, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, acne, bell’s palsy and TMJ to name a few.

If you have facial and massage cupping done, you may get temporary marks on your skin because all the metabolic debris and old blood that the treatment has brought to the surface. The color of the cupping marks, also referred to as cup kisses, can indicate the amount of dysfunction that has been removed from your tissues and can last a few hours or a few days depending on how much stagnation was in your body.

A cupping marks chart: What the colors of cupping marks indicate post-treatment

Cupping marks

  • Purple cupping marks – If you live a sedentary lifestyle you may get these from the long-term stagnant blood that has been oxygenated.
  • Dark red cupping marks – These marks indicate that heat or inflammation has been released via the cupping.
  • Yellow cupping marks – These marks can indicate that anesthesia and nicotine have been removed from your body.
  • Brown cupping marks – When you have brown marks it’s usually because dry blood and metabolic debris has been removed or brought to your skin’s surface via the cupping.
  • Light red cupping marks – These marks can mean that a blood deficiency exists and has been improved upon due to the cupping.

Because of cupping marks, it’s advised to only receive cupping on healthy skin. If you have an area on your body that isn’t healthy (such as infected or burned) it’s advisable to not have skin cupping done on that area.

What does cupping treat?

Dry cupping therapy benefits

  • Acne
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Back pain
  • Digestive problems
  • The common cold
  • Allergies
  • Skin Inflammation
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Aging (wrinkles)
  • Low energy
  • Helps prevent liver disease
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Gastrointestinal diseases
  • Rheumatic Diseases
  • Epilepsy
  • Headaches/migraines/tension headaches
  • Ischemia
  • Sciatica
  • Insomnia
  • Cellulite
  • Toxicity
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • TMJ Dysfunction
  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Chronic Pain
  • Menopause
  • Arthritis
  • Neuralgia
  • Poorly nourished skin and muscle tissue
  • Lung inflammation and congestion
  • Sinusitis
  • High/low blood pressure
  • Sluggish Colon
  • IBS
  • Stagnant lymph
  • Edema
  • Pre and post operative conditions
  • Athletic stress and injury
  • Soreness or fatigue (especially after an athletic event)
  • Bursitis
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Scars
  • Adhesions
  • Muscle Ache
  • Vascular Issues
  • Spider Veins
  • Loose skin and loose skin due to major weight loss
  • Hammer Toe and bunions

Before getting a therapeutic cupping massage, let your therapist know of any health issues you may have. They need to know what issues or pain you’re experiencing so they can best treat you. If you’re nervous about sky cupping therapy, there’s nothing to fear!

When your massage therapist combines cupping massage therapy, it’s easier for your therapist to get into the trigger points or as we call them ‘knots’ in your muscles. The silicone sunction cups for therapy and how they react to your skin can also show your therapist where there’s a restriction in your muscles. This can help with treatment and find the areas that will benefit from cupping massage.

Many people are turned on to cupping via their favorite celebrities and holistic health websites such as goop.com. Athletes also recognize the benefits of cupping and use it to keep their bodies in peak condition.

If you’re experiencing tension, anxiety or any of the above health conditions and you’re seeking relief, I highly recommend a therapeutic cupping massage. Visit the Eclectic Remedies Massage Studio based in the Regent Square Pittsburgh neighborhood and schedule an appointment!

If you have any questions about whether skin cupping therapy might be right for you, feel free to message me on my Facebook or Instagram as well!

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