What Is Cupping?
Cupping therapy is one of the oldest known healing practices, and is seen in almost every ancient culture. Cupping is mentioned in the Ebers Papyrus from 1550 BC, was recorded by the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist Ge Hong in 300 AD and the father of western medicine Hippocrates in 400 BC, and was advocated for by Mohammed in the Islamic tradition, as well as Maimonides' book on health in the Jewish tradition. While in many of these ancient traditions, cupping was related to blood-letting, in modern chiropractic and massage therapy care, dry cupping is used for all of the benefits and none of the downsides (and scariness) of bloodletting.
Generally, cupping is used to treat chronic pain, back pain and headaches in particular. The goal is to get rid of musculoskeletal pain, which is often a physical manifestation of chronic stress. Chronic stress manifests in how you carry yourself, especially if that stress is occurring in conjunction with hunching over our computers and our phones. That muscle tension can result in physical pain, which is what cupping helps reduce by increasing blood circulation in areas that are inflamed, bringing immune cells to that location to increase the repair and recovery process. In this way, cupping can help to remedy the physical symptoms, but is best combined with other measures to improve the mental stresses or ergonomic factors that may be causing the tension and pain.
Cupping affects several areas, including circulation, fascia, lymph and muscle tissue.
Circulation: The vacuum created by the cup creates vasodilation, which draws blood flow into the tissue. The expansion of blood vessels also offers a vehicle for release of deep inflammation to the skin surface.
Fascia: Separation of strands of fascia is profound when tissue is stretched in multiple directions by the cup. Separation of the strands and structures creates space for fascia to move properly.
Lymph: Adhesions occur when normally unconnected body parts become connected by bands of fibrous tissue. Cupping releases adhesions, allowing drainage and relief of congestion and vascular stress in the affected area.
Muscle tissue: Muscle tissue visibly softens, feeling plump with hydration and blood flow when palpated.
What To Expect
After a cupping session, there may be red circle marks on the body. It is a misconception that these red circles are bruises. The discoloration is due to blood and cellular debris in the body being pulled up to the surface of the skin, rather than tissue damage. This indicates that blood flow has increased in the area. Over more treatments, the marks may be less prominent.