What is cupping?

Cupping has been a popular topic recently after many of the athletes of the Rio Summer Olympics were seen with big purple circles on their body. NBC even did a small segment on how it’s done. So let’s talk about it…

Cupping has been a part of eastern medicine for thousands of years along with acupuncture but has become more mainstream in the western world recently. It is a soft tissue therapy that promotes healing, increases flexibility, may break up scar tissue, and feels really good! Chinese medicine describes the process as pulling illness or pathogens out of the body. From a western perspective, it works by increasing blood flow to the area and mobilizing muscles and connective tissue that are painful and fibrotic.

What is cupping like?

Traditional Chinese medicine uses a flaming alcohol-soaked cotton ball to heat up the air inside a glass cup for a split second. The cup is then placed in the desired area (usually a tender spot.) As the air inside the cup cools, molecules cool and contract and the cup creates a vacuum to suck the tissue up inside the cup. The cups are typically left there for 15 minutes.

Western practitioners often use a different form of cupping. At AccessHealth we use a pump to create the vacuum inside the cup. This reduces the chance of burns and patients are usually more comfortable with it. I’ll often put some lotion or lubricant on the skin as well and then slide the cups through an area of tissue. Sometimes I’ll have the patient do specific functional movements as well so the muscles and tissues are sliding underneath the cup. Call it “functional cupping.”

What are the purple cupping spots?

The purple spots that are left over are bruises left from the suction. They’re rarely sore, but they do stimulate a conversation because people are usually shocked by how perfectly round they are for a bruise. Cups come in many different sizes as well so the bruises can vary in size.

Should I try cupping?

We use cupping as an adjunct therapy usually, and patients typically love it. There are almost no risks, it feels good, and it’s relaxing. It’s a great way to affect sticky tissues underneath the skin that can cause muscle knots, loss of flexibility, movement difficulties, and pain. If we’re treating the joints with chiropractic adjustments it’s important to get into those soft tissues and correct them as well. If you’re interested in chiropractic, cupping, or any of the other services we offer at our office feel free to give us a call for a free consultation!