Cupping–Not Just for the Rich and Famous

cupping
Thanks Lai Acupuncture for the image.

If you watched Michael Phelps at the 2016 Olympics, you are already aware of cupping. When the swimmer took the block covered in what appeared to be circular bruises, people took notice. What is that? they wondered. What happened to him? Immediately, the press covered the form of ancient Chinese medicine known as cupping.

After thousands of years of being in practice, it became the hottest fitness trend. The most elite athletes use cupping to enhance their abilities. Various celebrities use cupping for—well, whatever it is that celebrities need. Female celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow even walked the red carpet in backless dresses exposing the marks from their treatment.

However, you don’t need to be a pro-athlete or celebrity to benefit from cupping. Right now, when I think of cupping, I don’t think of any celebrities or even Michael Phelps. I think of my mom, a five year stroke survivor.

Every Wednesday, she goes for acupuncture and cupping treatment. These treatments have been extremely helpful, moving her down the road to recovery after a plateau in progress. After each treatment, Mom has increased sensation and strength. Her progress makes me wonder how many people out there would also benefit from cupping.

What Is Cupping?

Some people believe that cupping has existed for around 5,000 years. However, the earliest record of cupping was in Egyptian hieroglyphics dating back about 3,500 years.

Initially, people performed cupping with hollowed out animal horns, bones, bamboo, nuts, seashells and gourds. Through the years the tools of the trade have evolved. Now, it’s more likely you will see glass or plastic bulbs.

While some practitioners use glass bulbs with a small fire to create the suction on your skin, others prefer plastic bulbs with a one-way suction valve on the end. This is what my mom’s therapist uses.

The therapist identifies the spot where the cup should go, places the cup, and generates the appropriate level of suction for the treatment. Then, you leave the cups on until the therapist takes them off. As you wait, the suction in the cups draws muscles, blood, and really anything beneath the surface of your skin up into the cup. It is claimed that this helps improve circulation and remove toxins.

Benefits of Cupping

Cupping can be performed on any part of your body. Area specific cupping types include: facial, pedi, abdominal, orthopedic, and TMJ and sinus release.

Cupping can also be used with an overall health goal in mind. It is used for detoxification, lymphatic drainage, and myofascial release.

According to cuppingtherapy.org,

“Cupping is very beneficial for many conditions such as high blood pressure, anxiety, fatigue, chronic headache, fibromyalgia and neuralgia. Contracted, congested muscle tissue will soften quickly with only a few minutes of Negative Pressure Massage Cupping.

Used on the back, the larger cups will mimic the rolling action of myofascial release without discomfort to the client. The variety of movements can be long and draining, circular and vibrational for stimulatiion and for areas of stubborn knots and rigid tissue. The skin will redden with strong pressure, indicating that the circulation has been brought to the surface.”

Although the research I’ve seen says that cupping doesn’t hurt and that it’s very relaxing, my mom says this is not always true. When her therapist is working on an intense spot, there may be a high level of discomfort involved and the resulting mark certainly is tender for the next couple of days.

How Do I Find a Therapist?

Many acupuncturists also practice cupping. Since both acupuncture and cupping are components of Chinese medicine, it’s very likely that if you find a person to perform one service, they will also be able to perform the other. In fact, that is how my mom found her therapist, Laurie Mecham.

For Christmas, my dad and I researched local acupuncturists and got my mom a gift certificate. Luckily for us, Laurie also incorporates cupping.

My main tip for finding a therapist for yourself is to turn to Google. Google is my go-to for finding helpful people. Of course, you may come up with a whole list of therapists, and they may all have comparable ratings.

Next, I would ask your friends on Facebook. If your friends are like mine, they have strong opinions. I have yet to ask for a recommendation on Facebook and come up with no results. Let your friends help steer you, but make sure that you choose the therapist who you think will help you the most.

Have you tried cupping before? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below. Also, feel free to tag anyone who you recommend for cupping.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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