From professional athletes after a session with an athletic trainer, to stay at home moms coming out of a well-deserved massage, the circular red or purple bruises seem to be everywhere.
What is this? Why do we do it?
Cupping therapy is a soft tissue therapy involving placing specially designed cups on the skin, and evacuating some of the air in order to draw the soft tissue up into the cup. Doing this creates lift, which pulls fluids through the tissue, increasing blood flow to the local area, and decompressing adhesions within the fascia between the skin and underlying tissues. Fascial tissues are connective tissues that provide support and structure to the body. When these tissues are damaged, they can cause stiffness, pain, and other problems.
Cupping therapy is performed with a number of different methods. The original method applied by acupuncturists and practitioners of Chinese medicine involved the use of a thick glass bulb. Fire is applied to the inside of the bulb to heat the air, and the cup is then placed quickly onto the skin, which creates the vacuum when the air inside the cup cools. Modern cupping sets are made of plastic or glass, with a vacuum valve at one end, and a pumping device, designed to pull a specific amount of air from the cup. Other sets are made of heavy silicone, which when depressed push air from the cup, and when released, pull tissue into the cup.
We use cupping to loosen chronically tight areas prior to adjusting, or in conjunction with other soft tissue therapies such as dry needling. We will apply multiple soft tissue therapies to an area which has been injured through trauma, overuse, or prior surgery.
As with any soft tissue therapy, the primary goals of Cupping Therapy are to:
The therapy may cause some discomfort, but it is considered to be safe. Post treatment effects experienced by patients include:
Slide cupping is a type of cupping therapy in which a cup is placed on the skin and then moved across the surface of the skin in a sliding motion. This is sometimes referred to as “glide cupping”. This pulls the fascial tissue into the cup along a wave pattern, and is more effective at treating a larger area than when cups are applied in the stationary method. Slide cupping is also more effective at helping to relieve muscle tension and pain, improving circulation, and stimulating the lymphatic system due to the motion used during application.
In the clinic, we use cupping to help improve the effectiveness of the chiropractic adjustment. When the areas being adjusted can move into position more comfortably or with less restriction, the adjustments are generally more gentle, and tend to be effective for longer after a treatment.
If you are having troubles with soft tissue pain along the spine or in any of your extremities, cupping may be a great addition to your treatment regimen.