Let's take a closer look at Cupping
I was not someone who “jumped on the bandwagon,” so to speak when it came to cupping. I was very skeptical and did not think it was a very beneficial tool for bodywork. It looked like it hurt! As a massage therapist, I had no interest in using it in my practice! I remember seeing those very intense circular hugged-by-an-octopus marks, and wondering how in the world can that help someone? When I was finally exposed to cupping therapy, I quickly realized how wrong I was! It’s an amazing and beneficial therapy. I started to use cupping all the time in my practice and witnessed amazing results with people who were dealing with chronic discomfort. So let us take a closer look at cupping. Let’s do some clarifying on this subject.
Where did cupping come from?
Cupping isn’t a new age “fad.” It is actually an ancient therapy that is resurfacing. The true origins remain uncertain, but what we do see is cupping popping up throughout the ages. We see cupping in hieroglyphs from ancient Egyptian times. Egypt produced one of the oldest medicinal textbooks in the world, “Ebers Papyrus'' which shows cupping used to treat fever, pain, vertigo, weakened conditions, accelerating the “healing crisis,” and much more. In China, cupping contributes to form the backbone of Traditional Chinese Medicine and is still used today to dispel stagnation. Throughout the 18th century, European doctors widely used cupping to cure common colds and chest infections. Cupping has been used in surgeries to divert blood flow from surgery sites. Towards the late 1800s, cupping started to decline and lessen in popularity. There was a shift in focus to treating the inside of the body rather than the outside and away from hands on therapies. Cupping was considered to be “Folk” or Traditional Medicine and was beneath the new medical model. Complementary medicine is on the rise as the public has become more educated and we are seeing “folk” medicine and many other ancient medical approaches resurface due to their extensive benefits and scientific merit.
So what is cupping and how does it work?
Cupping is a type of bodywork that uses negative or reverse pressure to mobilize and hydrate muscle, fascia and other soft tissues by increasing fluid exchange and opening of the body’s pathways of its detox and immune system, or lymphatic system. As the layers of soft tissue start to lift away from one another, it allows more space for fresh and vital nutrients to enter the area. This combination of creating and hydrating space allows the soft tissue to glide with greater ease and produces a more comfortable movement. Lymphatic vessels and capillaries respond well to light and lifting therapies, not to deep or even medium pressure. Cupping draws up the old non-circulating stagnant blood and sticky fluids from the area, bringing them up away from the site and to the surface of the skin where we have a large number of capillaries. It flushes the capillary beds and forces the fluid to exchange to restore circulation to the area, thus leading to a faster recovery.
What are those marks all about?
The intention with massage cupping is not to leave a mark, but it can happen. Marks do not make the treatment any more or less effective. Cupping marks are oftentimes called “cupping kisses.” The most important thing to realize about the marks is that they are NOT bruises!!! Cupping marks cannot be called bruises simply because of the way that bruises appear when the body experiences some kind of compressive injury or trauma. The impact can cause damage to blood capillaries present under the skin, which is why you see the redness. Marks left from cupping look similar to a bruise but that is about all they have in common. Unlike a bruise cupping marks are generally NOT painful when you touch them. Oftentimes people will totally forget that they have any marks until someone else sees it and points it out to them. Cupping therapy, in theory, simply expands the capillaries, making them more porous which causes some blood cells and plasma to leak into the surrounding tissues, resulting in some temporary skin discoloration or “kisses.”. The good news is with frequent and continuous cupping, the capillaries may thicken and the cupping marks will lessen and may not return.
At Synergy Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Scottsdale, AZ we take an integrative approach to bodywork. Integration of cups is interwoven throughout the massage session. Cups are moved around and not left in any one spot for too long, so marking tends to be minimal. If you don’t particularly like the feeling, it’s ok to say it’s not for you. Everyone is different and communication is the best thing to make a session the best it can be. But if you ARE interested, come try it out. I would be happy to explain it further and answer any questions you may have.
Morgan Strong, LMT