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Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures have relied on cupping therapy for thousands of years, but it seems to have become popular in the US after seeing famous Olympic athletes having it done. As the name suggests, “cupping” involves placing several cups over strategic points on the body. The resulting suction redirects circulation, allowing blood and other fluids to flow to areas in need of healing. The cups are moved over the skin with a combination of gliding, shaking, popping, and/or rotating techniques while pulling up on the cup. The cup may also be “parked” for a short time to facilitate joint mobilization or soft tissue release. Cupping can reach deep into soft tissue and has been reported to have a sedating effect on the nervous system. Another reported benefit is the pulling of inflammation and toxins from the body tissues so that the skin and lymphatic system can eliminate them. Scar tissue can also be released quickly, despite the age of the injury.
Cupping can be done once for simple conditions/issues or post-athletic exertion (see below) but typically best applied over 4-6 sessions for a cumulative effect for more stubborn/chronic conditions. Cupping is not a “one and done” treatment approach due to the gradual effect of the vacuum to release soft tissue.
The most common misuse of cupping is overuse. Treatments to the same area are restricted to every 48 hours. Cupping is an option in the therapy setting to be used in combination with additional therapeutic applications chosen by your therapist.
Heather is certified in Ace cupping techniques, but it’s always wise to consult your primary physician if you have reservations. The risk of adverse effects from cupping has proven to be low in numerous studies. But if you have excessive bruising issues or are on blood thinners, some cupping methods may not be right for you.