Cupping has recently received a great deal attention since many top athletes like Michael Phelps are seen sporting large, bruise-like circles on their bodies. In fact, cupping has been around for thousands of years and is a common practice around the world including South America and Europe. It’s just not something Americans are used to yet
Cupping uses cups with pumps to pull skin and tissue up into the cup. These cups are either left in place or moved around tight, painful areas, from the back down to the thighs (for sciatica). This increases oxygen and nutrients to the area.When the tissue is pulled into the cup, it helps stretch tight, knotted muscles. This pulls dead cellular debris from deep in the muscle to an area with greater blood flow, where the body can more easily remove it. With the area now free of the toxins the body has produced, nutrients and oxygen can come in, allowing the tissue to heal itself. Removing stagnant blood and toxins from an area helps heal sore muscles much more easily.
An MD I spoke with recently felt that cupping must be beneficial. His rationale was that when muscles are tight, there is less blood flow to that area causing it to break down and leave large amounts of metabolic waste to build up. This metabolic waste can interfere with calcium ion channels (what allows our cells use to properly convey messages between one another). This doctor allowed that cupping would help remove this buildup and allow for proper nerve firing, reducing spasms and painful contractions.
What Causes Those Nasty Looking Marks?
The marks left behind look like bruises, but they’re not. The marks are non-painful and usually go away from within 2 days to a week. Cupping pulls up non-circulating, dead blood cells and other fluids left behind from injuries to the surface where the body can move it out.
Does it Hurt?
When done by a trained professional, such as an acupuncturist, cupping doesn’t not hurt. Many people even find the treatment relaxing. Afterward, the area typically feels more fluid, and the person experiences a reduction in pain. The discolored areas should not hurt after treatment and will go away quickly, depending on how well your lymphatic system is draining or how much debris needed to be moved out.
What is a Treatment Like?
In my office, I only use mechanical silicon or plastic cups. I place coconut oil on the area to be worked on so the cups can move around easily including joints and bony areas. Five minutes of cupping is the equivalent to 30 minutes deep tissue, minus the discomfort. Treatments last roughly 25 minutes, with shorter treatments used at the beginning in order for the body to get used to the treatments.
Many people who have tried it experience a great reduction in aches and pains after a single treatment. More to the point, Olympic athletes swear by it and how it helps them recover from long days of training.