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  • Writer's pictureDr. Hanna Shays

What is Cupping Therapy & What are the Benefits?

Cupping therapy to the shoulder blade
Cupping therapy performed at the scapula to release restricted tissues & improve blood flow

Cupping therapy involves placing cups (made of glass, plastic, bamboo or ceramic) on the skin to create suction. Cups can be placed on the back, shoulders, stomach, legs or any muscle group where it’s easy to attach the cups.  Suction creates a negative pressure environment allowing for myofascial decompression as the skin is drawn into the cups. This negative pressure is held for anywhere from 5-15 minutes. While massage therapy uses direct pressure (or compression) to release tension, cupping therapy uses negative pressure to lift the muscle fibers and draw blood to the area. Blood moving into the area brings oxygen and nourishment to the tissues. It also helps move accumulated cellular debris out of the tissues for the body to excrete.

Tight tissue does not accept blood flow as well as flexible tissue, so the marks left by the cups also tell us how stagnant blood flow to that area has been. Cupping therapy does not cause more pain and should not be painful following the formation of a mark. Not only is this a great treatment for dysfunctional tissue, but it also provides your physical therapist with more information regarding the level of tissue dysfunction. Deep purple indicates significant stagnation, which is typically present with chronic and severe pain. Red is less severe, though still an indication of impaired blood flow to that tissue. Cupping marks typically fade and disappear over the course of 5-7 days, pending how dark the discoloration is.

If blood flow to an area is more "stagnant," then that means cellular debris, lymphatic fluid and inflammatory markers aren't being efficiently cleared out from that tissue by the body. This can be a contributor to pain, restriction and muscle tension! Benefits of cupping therapy include improving circulation to restricted areas and allowing for cellular debris to be better cleared by your system. As a result, cupping therapy can be a great technique to help reduce myofascial pain and improve your range of motion.

Contact us to learn more and to see if cupping therapy could be right for you.

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