Many of us were first introduced to therapeutic cupping during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. All eyes were on Michael Phelps, and many of us were surprised to see numerous red and purple marks all over his shoulders and back. The commentators went on to explain what these marks were a result of, and therefore cupping was brought into the forefront as a treatment to relieve pain or increase blood flow.
Although many of us were seeing cupping for the first time, it’s been performed as far back as 1,550 B.C. by the Egyptians. Cupping has also been used in Eastern Chinese medicine for many years. The Chinese method commonly uses glass cups which are heated up with fire and, after the flame goes out, the cup is applied it to the skin which creates a suction effect.
More recently, physical therapists and other healthcare practitioners are using cupping in their clinics and getting very beneficial results. The more commonly used method of cupping uses silicon cups of different sizes, which are placed on the skin and a vacuum gun is used to remove the air from under the cup. The cups are left on the skin for up to 3-5 minutes depending on the time it takes to the tissue under the cup to change color. The practitioner looks for the tissue to turn a deep red color which indicated the lack of oxygen under the cup is causing this effect.
Whenever the body detects lack of oxygen to an area it sends increased blood and nutrients to that area for healing purposes. Interestingly, the areas of tissues that are injured or not functioning properly will remain whiter under the cup, indicating the lack of blood flow to that tissue. Cupping helps to restore the proper blood flow to that area, as well as separate different layers of tissue and allows for a myofascial release.
Cupping can be performed in 3 different methods:
- Static on Static Cupping – The cups are applied to the treatment area and left in place.
- Dynamic on Static Cupping – The cups are applied to the treatment area and are subsequently moved around with the help of a lubricant over the tissue.
- Static on Dynamic Cupping – The cups are applied to the treatment area and they remain in place while patient moves through a specific AROM to create the therapeutic effect.
Your healthcare provider will decide which method best suits your needs. Cupping assists in increasing blood flow, increased ROM, decreasing pain, and increasing function. If you think Therapeutic Cupping may benefit you or someone you know please call Red Canyon Physical Therapy and set up an appointment at one of our locations.