For many of us, cupping therapy is only recognisable as a treatment option that belongs in Traditional Chinese Medicine. But Cupping Therapy is actually something that we at Studio Musculoskeletal incorporate into many of our treatment plans because of the numerous musculoskeletal health benefits it can provide.
As therapist, when we massage, we apply pressure to the muscles. But with Cupping Therapy, a plastic cup is placed over the muscle and a suction gun uses pressure to pull the skin, tissue and muscle upward. Sort of like a massage in reverse. The purpose is to-
Improve circulation into the tissue to help improve the tissue health by filtering out waste products and promoting the transportation of oxygen and nutrients into the affected tissue.
The increased blood flow helps to raise the temperature within the fibers, which assists in muscle relaxation
Promoted muscle fiber relaxation by improving tissue health (as discussed above), but the pressure also helps to break up any adhesions and scar tissue that may be present in the muscle.
Promote the removal of toxins by stimulating the lymphatic system in conjunction with improving overall circulation.
There are two methods used with Cupping-
Fixed Cupping- when multiple cups are placed on a selected part of the body and are left in place.
Movement Cupping- when lubricant is applied to the skin and one cup is placed on a selected area and the practitioner moves the cup along the muscle. This is an excellent technique for tissues that are typically extremely tight and don’t respond quickly to soft tissue massage, such as the thoracic erector spinae and the ITB (Iliotibial band)
What are the side effects?
Once the cup is applied, you will generally feel a ‘tightness’ where the cup is applied. Depending on what are is being treated, will depend on whether the practitioner will use Fixed or Movement Cupping techniques. Typically, Fixed cups will be used to treat a larger area and Movement Cupping will be used on areas with extreme tightness or compression.
We have all seen those lovely round ‘bruise like’ marks on the Olympic Swimmers’ backs and this is a very normal effect of cupping. Because of the suction, the cups will commonly leave red, blue, or purple marks on the skin, which can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but are very very rarely painful. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the darkness of colour can be representative of the degree of congestion, injury and blockage within the tissue.
Cupping Therapy can be a very valuable treatment tool to include in your musculoskeletal treatment plan, so make sure you discuss the addition with your practitioner so you can start feeling the benefits of this ancient treatment method.