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Cupping Therapy: an ancient technique that’s becoming popular again

Author Details

Kenneth Oquendo blog author

Kenneth Oquendo

Registered Massage Therapist

Monday, Aug. 12, 2019

While cupping therapy (aka myofascial decompression) is becoming increasingly popular, it’s not new. Cupping therapy can be traced back to ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures. The technique is even described in one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, which means ancient Egyptians may have been using cupping therapy as early as 1,550 B.C.

In cupping therapy, the therapist places cups (which can be made of glass, bamboo, earthware or silicone) on the skin and applies suction, which draws the tissue into the cups. This process can leave circular bruises on the body. This is what happened to professional swimmer Michael Phelps, who used cupping therapy during the 2016 Olympics. His bruises were visible on camera, which led to many comments on social media and many people learning about cupping therapy.

Though cupping leaves bruises on the body, they usually go away after 7 to 10 days.

Cupping has many purported benefits, including:

  • Alleviating pain
  • Reducing muscle tightness
  • Increasing a limited range of motion
  • Increasing oxygen in local areas from increased local blood flow
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Increasing blood flow.

Removing the stagnation

An old Chinese maxim says that “Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.”

This is exactly what cupping seeks to address. By removing obstruction, cupping encourages the body to heal and regenerate.

Some people worry that using a cup as a vacuum on their skin will be painful, but the sensation can be compared to a friendly octopus. In other words, it feels like a light to medium pressure.

Cupping therapy is very safe and any adverse events are rare and usually range from mild to moderate. These effects could involve feeling dizzy, nauseous or sensitive around the treated area.

Cupping is also generally considered off-limits for people with organ failure, cancer patients, people with pacemakers or individuals who are suffering from hemophilia or similar conditions. If you have a sunburn, an infection, some open wounds or a severe chronic disease such as heart disease or anemia, cupping may not be the best method of treatment for you. Lastly, if you’re pregnant, you should avoid using cups on your abdomen or lower back.

A valuable alternative

Otherwise, cupping can be used as a form of treatment for many different types of problems or can be a valuable alternative to people from all walks of life.

Whether you’re someone who’s experiencing musculoskeletal pain and tightness, an athlete who trained a little too hard or an executive who needs stress relief, cupping may optimize athletic performance, speed up recovery, stretch muscles and connective tissue, improve overall wellbeing and so much more.

For more information about cupping, head over to a Lifemark clinic near you. Check out our Locations page to schedule an appointment with a Lifemark therapist.

Author Details

Kenneth Oquendo blog author

Kenneth Oquendo

Registered Massage Therapist

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