The 2016 Winter Olympics brought a lot of attention to cupping therapy after Michael Phelps was seen sporting the round, bruise-like marks on his shoulders and back. Since then I’ve had more and more people approach me curious about cupping, what the marks are, and if it’s something that would be good for them. It’s a topic I love talking about and encourage everyone to try.
So what is cupping and why should you try it?
Cupping is a painless technique used in Chinese medicine where glass or plastic cups are suctioned to the skin by using a pump or a flame. The cups can be left in one spot for the duration of the treatment (usually about 20 minutes) or can be slid along the length of the muscles. Both techniques are looking to tonify and move Qi (our life force/energy) and blood. Cupping is most commonly known for pain management but it has many other health benefits as well.
Here at the top 5 reasons you should try cupping:
1. Injury prevention/pain management
2. Maintain health and flexibility
4. Immune support
5. Respiratory support
When the cups are suctioned to the skin, our fascia and muscles also get a nice little tug. This pull allows “old dead” blood and lactic acid that is stuck in the muscles causing pain and stiffness to be pulled up to the surface layer of the skin. That leaves a void where fresh blood can come in to soften and nourish the muscles, allowing for pain to dissipate and flexibility to increase. The old blood will often leave a bruise-like mark on the skin for 3-6 days while the body works to flush out what is not needed. In this way, cupping is also great for detox!
Our blood and circulatory system carry everything we put into our bodies. Using suction from the cups, those toxins get pulled to the surface along with the blood and get flushed out of the body as well. So as you can imagine, doing this regularly helps to keep the body clear of unwanted substances and thereby increases our immune system.
Cupping is also fantastic for those with a cold or respiratory issues. Using this technique over the organs helps to invigorate and nourish or tonify that specific organ. When someone comes in with a cold, cups are often place over the upper back and chest to help expand and supplement lung function as well as expel that pathogen that is causing your cold.
Aftercare for cupping is also a very important aspect to the treatment. Once the cups are removed the pores are very open, so you will need to keep the marks covered up for the next 24 hours as to not allow any pathogens to invade. It is best to keep a very clean diet for the rest of the day and get plenty of water. We are what we eat so give your body the best fuel it can get!