How does cupping work?

Cupping employs the localized use of negative pressure (vacuum) to reverse the centripetal pull of gravity. Simply stated, it uses gentle, controlled suction to open up muscle tissue and vastly increase local circulation of blood and fluids. Think of it as a Dyson vacuum for the muscles and bones. It sucks the dust bunnies, cracker crumbs, abandoned cellular debris and forgotten emotional carry-on baggage that have squirreled themselves away between your bones, muscles and fascia.

What does it do?
This negative pressure improves blood and fluid circulation, mobilizes muscle and sinew flexibility, irons out crumpled and contracted fascia, gives breathing room to adhesions, helps to vanish scars, dredges the lymphatic system, improves skin tone, breaks up cellulite, promotes relaxation and leaves you wondering “why haven’t I done this sooner?”

What does cupping treat?
Cupping works magic on tight shoulders, sore backs, achy muscles, coughs, constipation, neck pain, headaches, sciatica and hitches in your get-along. In general cupping provides that “ah, yes” sense of relaxation as tensions evaporate from your tissues and you remember what life feels like without the compound accumulated tensions of day-to-day life.

What is the deal with those big purple hickies?
First of all, contrary to popular belief they are NOT bruises. swimmer_cupsThese “purple marks” as they are called in Chinese are the expression of internal stagnation and congestion brought to the surface of the body. They do not appear on everyone, only those with a significant amount of congestion, poor blood flow and lymph drainage. Those who are relatively healthy will not express with these “crop circles”, while those with severe muscle tightness, headaches, painful periods and various kinds of musculoskeletal pain will often, and with incredible speed, show with purple-black marks. These marks are both therapeutic (as they bring the stagnation out of the tissues and to the surface, where it can resolve), and diagnostic (the amount and nature of the discoloration gives an insight into the patient’s condition).


chinese cuppingTraditional cupping, as generally employed in China, where cups are placed and then left to sit for 5-15 minutes tend to result in more of a polka-dot display, while the “oily sliding cup”method tends to leave fewer marks, has the added benefit of treating a wider area, and tends to cause the eyes to roll back in delight.

Generally speaking, the more one has the stagnation pulled to the surface, the less they will express with the spotted evidence of having been cupped.

Some famous personalities like Gwyneth Paltrow have been known to sport their spots without reservation. Olympic athletes have also been in the news due to their leopardish appearance. beijing gramma cuppingEven though the Western news media, during the 08 Olympics expressed astonishment at the purple spots, it is common knowledge to anyone who has spent any time in the Middle Kingdom that these marks are considered by the Chinese to be as common as teacups. What is more, any grandma in China worth her salt knows how to apply some old fashion buffalo horn cups to treat colds, headaches, backaches and sore shoulders.

It looks weird, how does it feel?
From the outside, it may look torturous to see the how the skin and muscle is decompressed into what appears to be an inverted fishbowl, however from the receiving side it is reminiscent of a Ted Drew’s frozen custard on a convertible top down July evening. Additionally, much like acupuncture, it is profoundly relaxing.

Where was cupping invented?
The use of suction as a therapeutic intervention has been around since the first human smashed their thumb and discovered that by putting it in their mouth and sucking the pain would be relieved. Indeed cupping, while a part of Chinese medicine, can also be found as part of the traditional folk medicine of many countries all over the world. While it may appear that suction therapy is some kind of newfangled treatment, in fact it has been around since there was dirt.

Does it hurt?
While there can be moments of discomfort if the muscles are frozen tight, or if the vacuum is too strong, in general the sensation of cupping is quite pleasant. Much like massage, there are those who like a light touch and those who prefer the practitioner dig in with a hammer and tongs. Rest assured, the cups can be adjusted to your level of comfort. By and large the response to cupping is “oohhh, aahhhh.”

Yeah, but I’ve seen movies where they used cupping and it looked torturous as the actors were writhing in pain and screaming.
The movies also are full of chainsaw killers, psychopathic politicians and women with impossible figures. Well, the part about the politicians might have some validity. Regardless, it is incumbent on us to separate Hollywood smoke and mirrors fantasy from reality.

How long does a session last?
A session of just cups lasts 15-30 minutes. When combined as a part of the treatment with acupuncture or massage it can be up to an hour.

Can I get massage or acupuncture on the same day?
Yes, cupping can be combined with both acupuncture and massage. Or served up by itself to vacuum those accumulated tensions out of your muscles and connective tissue.

Is there anything I should do, or not do after a cupping treatment?
As with any kind of deep tissue work, be sure to drink plenty of water after your session to flush the flotsam and jetsam that have been release by your tissues. It is best not do any kind of strenuous physical activity immediately after your session, nor should you engage in delirious amounts of alcohol or an ice cream binge. Ideally, give yourself an afternoon or evening’s worth of time to allow yourself to soak in the gentle feelings of glide and ease that are the result of your muscles and blood being on good speaking terms.

Do you have any scientific proof that cupping works?
The proof, as one of my teacher’s always liked to remind us, is firmly in the pudding. We have yet to hear a Petri dish comment on the buttery feeling of being cupped, but that does not mean there may not one day be microscopic evidence that sinewy happy muscles both feel good and are good for ya.

Could I have a second helping please?
Of course you can, just give us a call at the clinic to schedule some time!