If you were watching the Rio Olympics last summer, you probably noticed some strange circular marks on several athletes, most notably the infamous Michael Phelps. These marks are the tell-tale signs that these athletes received a therapy known as Cupping to help their body’s cope with the strain of rigorous activity. Cupping has grown increasingly in popularity over the last few years, but many people think of cupping as a therapy just for athletes. The truth is, you don’t need to be a world champion to benefit from cupping; in fact, cupping is fantastic therapy to add to your wellness regimen that can provide a host of benefits.
What Is Cupping?
Cupping is an essential component of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine that dates back thousands of years. This therapy is primarily used to alleviate both acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and tension, but is also used for relaxation, detoxification, and venting pathogenic factors from the body. It involves the therapeutic application of heated glass cups on the skin that utilize suction to stimulate the flow of Qi and Blood. The circular marks it can leave behind vary in color from pink to dark purple, which reflect the degree of stagnation present in the treatment area. These marks are painless and normally only last a few days, but can last longer in certain circumstances.
How Does It Work?
During a cupping treatment, the practitioner will have you lie face down on a treatment table and apply a light layer of lotion on your back. Then, the practitioner will soak a sterile cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and light it, creating a small flame. The flame is held inside the glass cup for a moment to suck the oxygen out, then it is quickly removed as the practitioner places the cup on the treatment area. You may receive anywhere from 2-10 cups on at a time depending on your needs, and they will be retained anywhere from 5-20 minutes.
Cupping is all about supporting circulation and alleviating tension in the fascia (connective tissue). You see, when we are tense and tight, the fascia becomes rigid and immobile, which further worsens tension and also causes the muscle tissues to become undernourished from lack of proper blood flow. The suction created by the cups effectively stretches the fascia, thereby allowing your muscles to move freely without restriction. Additionally, cupping creates a cascade of circulatory events that rids the body of coagulated blood cells, proteins, lymph, and other cellular waste while infusing the starved muscle tissue with healthy oxygenated blood.
How Does It Help Me?
Pain Relief & Recovery: Both research and experiential data has shown that cupping is great for acute and chronic pain relief due to its combined activities of alleviating tension and nourishing muscle tissue. Additionally, by drawing more blood to the affected area, cupping triggers tissue remodeling, which greatly speeds up the healing process and prevents the buildup of scar tissue in cases of injury.
Cold/Allergy Relief: Cupping is also a therapy that can greatly benefit the healing process when suffering from allergies and upper respiratory infections. By invigorating the circulation of blood and lymph, it can strengthen the immune system, and enhance recovery. Additionally, cupping acts as a catalyst that stimulates the lungs to expel phlegm.
Promotes Relaxation: Cupping promotes a similar nervous system response as a deep tissue massage. It stimulates the central nervous system to down-regulate the “stress response” to promote the “relaxation response”, so you should leave your session feeling calm and relaxed and will likely have a great night’s rest.
Detoxification Support: Anytime circulation becomes hindered, unoxygenated blood cells, toxins absorbed through the skin, and other forms of cellular waste will coagulate in the affected area. The increased blood flow that cupping provides allows for the proper removal and elimination of toxins, thereby restoring healthy circulation.
Digestive Aid: Cupping actually helps with a myriad of digestive issues, especially Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and constipation. In addition to relaxing the body, which has its own digestive benefits, it stimulates digestive motility to help improve digestive functions.
If you would like to learn more about cupping, and how it can help you, give AcuBalance a shout and let us help you find the healing and recovery you deserve.
Andrea Johnston, L.Ac
Dr. Colby Helton, L.Ac