Cupping Therapy

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping therapy is an ancient technique where cups are applied on the skin of certain parts of the body for a short period of time to help promote tissue healing.

Cupping therapy, although an older technique, became part of the mainstream conversation during the 2016 Olympics, when swimming champion Michael Phelps showed up to compete with rounded bruises covering his back.

How does cupping therapy help?

The mechanism of cupping therapy is not fully understood but what we know is that the suction created from cupping draws fluid into the treated area. This suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels under the skin which your body treats like an injury. The body then re-directs more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process

What are the benefits of cupping therapy?

The benefits include but are not limited to;

1. Pain reduction
2. Decreases in muscle tension
3. Increased blood flow and oxygenation
4. Improvements in range of motion

Which conditions can cupping therapy help manage?

The current literature states that there are a number of conditions which can be managed with the use of cupping therapy as a sole form of therapy or as an adjunctive form of therapy. These include but are not limited to;

  • Neck and lower back injuries
  • Nerve entrapments or dysfunctions
  • Myofascial pain and discomfort
  • Cervicogenic and tension headaches
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Knee and ankle pain and swelling
  • Tennis and golfer’s elbow
  • Degenerative arthritic conditions
  • Fibromyalgia

Are there any side effects?

Generally speaking, cupping therapy is a safe form of treatment. The side effects tend to be limited to the pinch experienced during skin suction and some mild muscle soreness at the sight of cupping for about 24 hours post application. Patients should be mindful of the circular discolourations which remain for a few days or weeks after the applications of the cups. Skin irritation post cupping therapy has been reported in the literature but not a commonly seen theme.

When is it wise NOT to have cupping therapy?

  • Skin lesions, ulcers or infections
  • Skin sensitivities or sunburns
  • Arterial Thrombosis
  • Platelet disorders

If your treating practitioner believes that cupping therapy is suitable for your case then it will typically be utilised with a combination of other techniques like soft tissue therapies, muscle releases, mobilisations and exercises to optimise your recovery.