Cupping therapy is becoming increasingly prevalent among celebrities and professional athletes—to name a few: Michael Phelps, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber, and the latest star to indulge in cupping therapy, actress Kaley Cuoco.
So, what is cupping therapy? And why are celebrities and so many others scrambling to get it?
Cupping is the ancient medical practice of applying a cup to a specific area of the body, typically a muscular area, and creating a local suction by pushing air out or by heating a sealed area inside the cup. Once the cup is placed on a suctioned area, it is then left on for 2-5 minutes, or the practitioner may apply oil to
the skin and glide the cup around the local area of the patient’s body.
The purposes of creating a suctioned area in cupping therapy are to create a relaxation of the muscles and local tissues, break adhesions in the connective tissues that surround the muscles, increase flexibility, promote circulation of the blood to the area to accelerate healing, and enhance the healing process in combination with acupuncture treatment for various pain disorders.
Presently, cupping therapy is used in over 60 countries, and more than 300 studies on cupping therapy can be found in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Library of Medicine (Pubmed) databases. Cupping is employed to treat various health conditions, such as musculoskeletal pain, infections, headaches, high blood pressure, respiratory disorders, digestive issues, infertility and skin disorders1-8. In the early 1900s, Dr. William Olser, recognized as the “Father of Modern Medicine” and one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, advised cupping for the treatment of broncho-pneumonia and acute myelitis.
In 2015, a systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that “cupping could be effective in treating the pain and disability associated with chronic neck pain and chronic low-back pain in the short term.”4 More recently, in 2017, a crossover study comparing the effects of muscle-stretching exercise versus cupping therapy on pain thresholds and cervical range of motion (ROM) and angle concluded that “cupping treatment is more effective in improving ROM of the cervical spine and pain thresholds” and advised that therapy should be “one of the treatment options for pain and ROM impairments of the cervical spine.”9-10 Another study, conducted on females who were between 7-14 weeks pregnant, found that cupping therapy produced “significant reduction in the frequency of nausea and vomiting” and it improved their “quality of life.”
One question people often ask about cupping is, “What are those circular red/purple marks on the skin?” The answer is that the suction from the cups draws stagnant blood from deeper tissues to the surface, allowing healthier, oxygenated blood to more freely circulate. The more toxins and stagnant blood present in someone’s tissues, the more deeply colored any markings that arise will be. Some people show no visible signs on their skin after cupping, but most people do. These marks are not bruises or any indication of damage, but rather a sign that healing is taking place through the movement of stagnant fluids.
If you would like more information on cupping or to schedule a consultation or cupping session, please contact us for an appointment.