This is one of the most common questions I get from new massage clients. There…
Have you ever wondered if you should try vacuum cupping therapy? Most of us have either heard of this alternative medicine or have even seen the resulting big circular cupping marks on Olympic athletes and celebrities like Michael Phelps. Like most alternative therapies, cupping has been for thousands of years (the Ebers Papyrus, 1550 BC mentions it), but it comes and goes in terms of popularity and availability.
All cupping therapies increase blood flow and lymph in the treatment area (thereby improving tissue restriction and reducing pain) and help to eliminate inflammation and toxins. There are several different types of cupping treatments, some of which use glass cups, while others use cups made of silicone, hard plastic, or even bamboo. Each cupping method has its own unique advantages.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping
This type of cupping is what results in the dark circular marks on the skin, often worn as badges of honor. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping aims to affect and improve the flow of Qi and blood. By opening the pores of the skin, the suction cups help draw out and eliminate pathogens (the Chinese refer to these pathogens as wind, cold, damp and heat). This Oriental medicine can benefit several health issues and reduce the risk of illnesses.
The cupping cups are often parked in one spot for quite a while, which can sometimes cause temporary pain and/or itching. There are even options such as fire cupping and blood cupping. It is sometimes combined with acupuncture and can be beneficial to many health issues.
Vacuum Machine Cupping
With the assistance of a cupping machine, this type of therapy has a gentler way of relieving muscle tension and improving blood and lymph flow. I choose to offer vacuum cupping therapy in my Overland Park massage office because it provides a large range of pumping options and intensity levels.
With the machine providing the suction through hoses connected to the cups, I am able to focus more on the client’s tissue restrictions and reactions to the cups themselves. Each client responds differently, and I can adjust the cupping timing and intensity as needed. The cups are not left on a particular spot for very long, so cup marks are an uncommon result. Most clients find the cupping relaxing and often fall asleep.
The Effectiveness of Cupping
Cupping helps to relieve pain and inflammation, and it releases deep muscle restrictions by encouraging the movement of blood and lymph through stagnant areas. It can help to soften scar tissue, increase range of motion, and even open the chest and lungs by lifting and separating layers of tissue.
Cupping therapy can help improve chronic areas of pain and tension by encouraging restrictions in the muscle and fascia to release slowly and gently. Bringing fresh blood and lymph to these areas supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself.
When to Avoid Cupping Therapy
Because cupping therapy is so effective on the lymphatic system, there are a few reasons to check with your doctor before booking a session. Pregnant women should get the go-ahead from their doctor before receiving cupping treatment. Even then, only light cupping should be used because strong suction and stationary cups are not appropriate during pregnancy.
Caution should also be used when receiving cupping if you are on blood thinners or have diabetes. Cupping should not be used directly on recent injuries or varicose veins. Also, some cups are magnetic and should not be used on anyone with computer implants.
How to Prepare for Cupping Therapy
Preparing for your cupping session can provide a more effective and relaxing experience. Drink plenty of water during the twenty-four hours leading up to your cupping session to ensure proper hydration, and you should also avoid eating heavy meals three hours prior to your session.
You should also try to get any exercise out of the way a few hours before your session, so that you can take it easy after receiving the cupping. As with any bodywork, the more relaxed and centered you are when you arrive, the more effective the session will be for you. So, if possible, take some time to meditate or do some deep breathing before your session.
What to Expect After Cupping Therapy
There are a few things you might notice after a cupping session. Beyond the “cup kiss” (discoloration), you might also be slightly sore, itchy or red in spots for a few days. You may also feel light-headed right after the session, so be careful sitting up and getting off the massage table. Cupping on the face can increase sinus drainage for the next few days as well.
What to do After a Cupping Therapy
Whether you feel totally relaxed or a little bit sore, there are some things to keep in mind after your session. You should stay hydrated by drinking good quality, filtered water and avoid chill, draft, and excessive heat for four to six hours after your cupping treatment. You should avoid exercise, saunas, hot tubs, and hot showers until the next day.
If you do have some cupping marks, an epsom salt bath (at least twenty-four hours after your session) might help those marks fade away more quickly. Wait a few days after your cupping session to receive any other bodywork. If you have any concerning side effects after a cupping session, then reach out to your therapist.
Interested in giving vacuum cupping therapy a shot? Schedule an appointment at my Overland Park massage practice!