While cupping has been practiced for centuries it certainly is getting a lot of play at the 2016 Olympics! The first documented use of cupping dates back to 1550 BC but most Americans have learned about cupping after seeing the signature round cupping marks on athletes and celebrities in the last few years. As cupping has increased in popularity I get more requests for it at my Decatur, GA acupuncture clinc.
Cupping is one tool in my Chinese Medicine toolbox. The idea behind cupping is quite simple: a specially made glass, bamboo or plastic cup is suctioned onto the skin. The vacuum pulls the tissue up into the cup that increases the circulation of blood and lymph thus relieving muscle tension and soreness. In traditional fire cupping, the kind I generally practice, a flame creates the vacuum in the cup before it is placed on the body. Once the cups are applied they can be gently moved over the body or sit stationary depending on the goal of the treatment.
I like to use cupping for back and shoulder pain and find that it works best in conjunction with acupuncture. For example, I have a lot of people come in with tight upper back, shoulders and neck due to stress and too much time sitting at a computer. Cupping works to relieve the muscle tension but acupuncture works on the nervous system to induce a state of deep relaxation. Over time this relaxation extends into a shift in how your body actually responds to stress.
Cupping is not only used for muscle tension. I frequently use cupping for respiratory conditions as it works to clear congestion from the lungs. And, because cupping works to increase circulation, it can also provide relief for people who suffer from chronic fatigue.
So, what are those marks that cupping leaves? First off, they are not bruises. The marks are not tender and there is no trauma to the skin, which is the hallmark of a bruise. The discoloration is simply old, deoxygenated blood that has been pulled out of the muscle to help the body recover faster. The color of the marks and how long they last is actually diagnostic. If practiced by a skilled acupuncturist cupping should not hurt and should not create any blisters. You may feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup but that often feels good and relaxes sore muscles. Most people say how relaxed and loose they feel after receiving cupping.
Ready to try cupping? Schedule your appointment today!