Cupping is a great alternative form of medicine that helps with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and more. It’s trendy now, but it dates back to 1,550 B.C. when the ancient Egyptians used it. They describe their methods in the Ebers Papyrus which is one of the world’s oldest medical texts. As a massage therapist, I’m always looking for ways to treat and relax my clients. Because I love to learn new ways to better help my clients, I knew cupping was a treatment I had to learn!
Even though it 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 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, where during dry cupping there are no cuts made whatsoever.
Cupping can do so many great things for your body. Because it helps to relieve stress, if you’re having digestive issues it can help to lessen them. Most digestive issues are either heightened by stress or a result of stress. With cupping, you’ll be able to get results and lessen conditions like IBS and other digestive issues. If you have a cold, cupping can help with that as well. Cupping improves immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout your body. This will help your system to get rid of a cough, sickness or seasonal allergies.
Cupping can help almost every system of your body, here’s a breakdown of how:
- Circulatory System – Cupping can stimulate vasodilation which causes your blood to flow. When your blood is flowing as it should be it oxygenates the affected area which can help you heal faster from wounds or fatigue.
- Nervous System – Cupping effects the sensory nerves of your skin. It can help to inhibit pain receptors. By the way the cups are placed on your spine it can influence your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which influences the nerves and can help to alleviate pain in the surrounding areas and organs.
- Endocrine System – Cupping stimulates your body to produce hormones that will relax you like oxytocin, endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
- Lymphatic System – Cupping 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 to 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.
So, what exactly is cupping?
There are several types of cupping but they all involve placing a glass or plastic cup on your skin. Your 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 cupping involves blood being released into the cups as your skin is punctured. This treatment stems from ancient chinese 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… and that’s all in the length the cups are on your skin. A massage therapist will use the 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 chinese medicinal cupping will leave the cups on your body for long periods time (20 minutes or more).
During a 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 treatment can help the blood flow in your body and you can get it done as often as you’d like!
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 to 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 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.
Here’s a guide on what the colors of cupping marks can indicate post-treatment:
- Purple Marks – If you live a sedentary lifestyle you may get these from the long-term stagnant blood that has been oxygenated.
- Dark Red Marks – These marks indicate that heat or inflammation has been released via the cupping.
- Yellow Marks – These marks can indicate that anesthesia and nicotine have been removed from your body.
- Brown 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 Marks – These marks can mean that a blood deficiency exists and has been improved upon due to the cupping.
Because of this 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) don’t have cupping done on that area.
Often, I get asked what I use cupping to treat. It’s a great question, because there are so many conditions that it can help. Here are just a few…
Conditions cupping can help:
- Anxiety & Depression
- Back pain
- Digestive problems
- The common cold
- Skin Inflammation
- Aging (wrinkles)
- Low energy
- Helps to prevent liver disease
- Poor blood circulation
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Rheumatic Diseases
- Headaches/Migraines/Tension Headaches
- TMJ Dysfunction
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Chronic Pain
- Poorly Nourished Skin and Muscle Tissue
- Lung Inflammation and Congestion
- High/Low Blood Pressure
- Sluggish Colon
- Stagnant Lymph
- Pre and Post Operative Conditions
- Athletic Stress and Injury
- Soreness or Fatigue Post an Athletic Event
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Muscle Ache
- Vascular Issues
- Spider Veins
- Loose Skin and Loose Skin Due to Major Weight Loss
- Hammer Toe and Bunions
Before getting a cupping treatment, let your therapist know of any health issues you have. They need to know what issues or pain you’re experiencing so they can best treat you. If you’re nervous about cupping, there’s nothing to fear!
When your therapist combines cupping and massage, it’s easier for your therapist to get into the trigger points or as we call them ‘knots’ in your muscles. The cups and how they react to your skin can also show your therapist where there’s a restriction in your muscles. This can help them treat you effectively and find the areas that will benefit from 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 cupping. Visit my website today to schedule an appointment! If you have any questions on whether cupping might be right for you, feel free to message me on my Facebook or Instagram as well!