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What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is a soft tissue mobilization method used for various ailments where a practitioner will place cups over the skin to create a vacuum pressure effect. The cups are normally made of glass, plastic or silicone and suction is created either by heat or manual pumping action. This method has gained popularity in recent years allowing more accessibility for the average person to try. The cups create a negative pressure pulling up the skin and allowing the deep tissue to relax any adhesions or areas of tightness. Due to this suction or negative pressure blood flow to the area increases, connective tissue loosens, and healing may occur. Cupping has been used for thousands of years and within the field of Chinese Medicine it is supposed to unblock and move the "Qi", flow of energy, from stagnant areas and bring healing.

More conclusive research needs to be done at this time, but I have had anecdotal good results from patient and personal feedback. I find cupping helps with musculoskeletal injuries, back pain, knee pain, muscle pain/soreness, neck/shoulder pain, and bronchial congestion.

With the extra blood flow and release of pressure in the area it gives the tissue a chance to heal. Cupping combined with other integrative therapies such as active movement and stretching can work really well.


  • All Cupping: Improves blood circulation, lymphatic flow, and reduces swelling

  • Cells are saturated with oxygen, the complexion improves, toxins are removed

  • Stimulates tissue relaxation

  • Inflammatory cytokines are reduced and cytokines that promote healing and relaxation are increased

  • Has a analgesic or pain relieving effect

  • Facial cupping: the skin becomes firm, pores can shrink, wrinkles and creases reduce, production of natural collagen is activated

Sounds pretty great? I have personally had success with cupping in tough spots in my thoracic spine/back. I had an 7 year old injury with myofascial tightness and trigger points that would not go away. With weekly cupping my restrictions have improved, my strength has increased and I am able to do my upper body workouts without all the aching.

I use cupping with silicone cups and adjust pressure to tolerance. Treatment time is anywhere from a few minutes to 20 or so on each area depending on the need. The negative pressure works great when gliding the cups across the skin and along muscular regions. It feels like a slight pressure, but should not be painful during treatment. Sometimes small red dots can appear depending on the pressure used and the duration the cups where left in one area. When moving the cups along the skin, it does not create dark red circular marks.

Contraindications to cupping:

  • Open wounds

  • Infections

  • Patient on anticoagulants

  • Active deep vein thrombosis

  • Pregnancy

  • Undiagnosed lumps

  • Over varicose veins

  • Other vascular diagnosis or cardiac conditions such as arterial or venous diseases

Indications: There are so many!

  • Improve muscle performance (I was able to achieve a PR in squat the next day after the relief of the session)

  • Improved function

  • Decreased hypersensitivity

  • Decreased pain (pain decreased from 3/10 to 0/10 for me)

  • Improve scar mobility, tightness, stiffness, swelling post operational

  • Tennis/Golfer's Elbow

  • TMJ

  • Rotator Cuff injury

  • Shoulder pain and stiffness, neck pain, etc... list goes on!

Tightness, stiffness and swelling following healed fractures

Post-operative carpal tunnel syndrome

Brachial plexopathy (pain, decreased movement and sensation in the arm and shoulder)

Tennis/Golfer’s elbow

Rotator cuff injury

Shoulder pain and stiffness

Low back pain

Neck pain and stiffness

Take Aways:

"The suction created by the cup encourages blood flow—and this increased circulation may promote healing and reduce pain. "

"Cups physically create a vacuum on a person’s skin, or reverse pressure away from the body which pulls up on tight, deep muscle tissue. This process then releases any stagnant blood and lymph to flow freely."

Let us know if you'd like to add cupping to your therapy session!

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