Prevention and Wellness

Cupping Therapy

Amy Bennett, PT, GCMT, CIDN, MCTA, Premier Health Sports Medicine,  Miami Valley Hospital North , answers Frequently Asked Questions about cupping therapy and how it benefits the athletes who use it.

What is cupping?

Cupping is the use of special suction cups to create negative pressure (a vacuum) through the skin and into the muscles.

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What does cupping do?

Cupping loosens the body’s connective tissue and lifts it, relieving myofascial tissue restrictions and gently stretching muscle in directions not possible with exercise. It dramatically increases blood and lymph flow in the area and throughout the body, allowing these systems to “flush” the stagnated tissues and release powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain-relief effects.

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Is cupping a new technique?

Cupping has been used for thousands of years to eliminate pain and reduce inflammation and to relax muscles. It has recently become more popular as an alternative to narcotic pain medicine — and as cupping equipment has become more widely available and inexpensive.

What conditions does cupping treat?

Cupping is especially useful when treating muscle soreness or tightness, and chronic stress and strain.

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What are those purple bruises from cupping?

They aren’t really bruises, because cupping does not cause damage to underlying tissue. The marks are actually hickies. They result from the vacuum effect of drawing the blood into the surface capillaries. They are not painful, and they generally fade in a day or 2, resolving completely in about a week. As the stagnation in the tissues lessens, so will the amount of skin discoloration from each treatment.

Who performs the cupping therapy?

Health care professionals in many disciplines can undergo extra training to perform safe, effective cupping: physical therapists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, doctors, chiropractors, etc. It’s important to find someone who has had this extra training.

Does cupping hurt?

Some people report a sensation of skin pinching or pulling at first, but this generally subsides during treatment and is experienced less as the tissues become less congested over time. Most people ask for the treatment again. After cupping, there is usually a sense of relaxation and improved mobility.

Source: Amy Bennett, PT, GCMT, CIDN, MCTA, Premier Health Sports Medicine

Content Updated: July 17, 2018

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