What is the Science Behind Cupping?
Because it is working on a number of different systems and structures within the body, cupping has numerous benefits.
- Creates space in compressed or stagnant tissues: The negative pressure of cupping pulls tissues up and away from underlying structures, allowing areas of adhesion to stretch and soften. This quickly loosens up stiff muscles, and pulls fascia up and away from the muscles.
- Vasodilation & Improved Circulation: This tissue expansion also stimulates vasodilation, improving circulation and increasing skin temperature. This brings blood flow and nutrients to areas of pain or injury, flushes capillary beds, and drains stagnant or extravasated blood, toxins, and lymph.
- Clears Out Cellular Waste and Toxins: The body is very good at clearing out waste. Cellular waste is normally disposed of through the circulatory system. However in cases of injury, poor circulation, or body overload, these wastes can build up in the system. Carbon dioxide and lactic acid are normal buildups that still need to be cleared. Additionally, in the modern world, we face a lot of unnatural wastes like preservatives, carcinogens, pesticides, heavy metals, steroids, and exogenous hormones. Cupping brings wastes and toxins up out of the tissues, and out of the interstitium. Some of these wastes and toxins will be expelled through the pores (which expand with the negative pressure of cupping, allowing for increased discharge). The remainder of this waste that has been pulled out of the tissues is then more accessible to the circulatory and lymphatic systems where it can be properly cleaned up.
- Increases Synovial Fluid: Cupping increases the secretion of synovial fluid around joints, reducing joint stiffness.
- Parasympathetic Engagement: The negative pressure of cupping sedates the nervous system through the strong stimulation of the millions of nerve endings in the skin. This engages the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for full-body relaxation.
- Respiratory Relief: Cupping helps to expand tissues that may be restricting the expansion of the lungs, including helping to open up the diaphragm.
- Digestive Relief: The reverse pressure of cupping helps to stimulate the digestive organs.
So, What Exactly are Those Marks?
Did you know, the marks that show up after cupping are NOT bruises! The correct Western term for these discolorations are petechiae or ecchymosis. These two skin colorations are due to extravasated blood from capillaries, as opposed to capillary rupture. Although an ecchymosis can be a bruise, a bruise is due to trauma to the tissue that has caused a ruptured capillary, whereas the negative pressure of cupping pulls some blood through the walls of the capillaries and vessels. During inflammation, white blood cells are naturally extravasated through capillary walls into surrounding tissues to clean up and deal with the inflammation. Cupping helps to speed up this process.
The rate of healing and the stages that occur with cupping marks distinguish these marks as petechiae or ecchymosis rather than bruising.
How Should I Take Care of Myself After Cupping?
According to the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping opens up the body’s defensive layer (what we call the wei qi) in order to allow for the release of heat or toxins trapped in the body. However, for a period of 4-6 hours after a cupping treatment, this also means that the body’s defensive layer is down, so it’s important to treat your body right during this time! Following a cupping session, it is best to avoid excessive heat, cold, wind/drafts, swimming, or over-exercise for a period of 4-6 hours. We suggest keeping a layer of clothing or a scarf over the cup marks to prevent direct contact with the elements. Additionally, avoid putting any strong topical creams or oils over the marks during this period of time, particularly if they have menthol, camphor, or other strong or potentially irritating ingredients.
What is Cupping Most Helpful For?
Cupping can be beneficial for a number of conditions including:
Musculoskeletal pain, sciatica, rheumatism and arthritis, fibromyalgia, sports injuries, poor circulation, edema, chronic headaches, migraines, menstrual problems, certain respiratory disorders (asthma, cystic fibrosis, COPD and other mucus-based disorders), colds, the flu, neuralgia, high blood pressure, cellulite, insomnia, fatigue, digestive disorders, chronic constipation, anxiety, and stress.
Injuries and Conditions Treated: Knee injuries, hamstring injuries, gluteal injuries, shoulder injuries, forearm and elbow injuries, achilles tendon injuries, gastrocnemius injuries, low back injuries, quadriceps femoral injuries, sprains & strains, shin splints, IT band syndrome, hip conditions, groin pain, compartment syndrome, and medial tibial stress syndrome.
What is Cupping Contraindicated For?
Cupping should not be performed on acute injuries, until at least 24 hours after the injury. Additionally, cupping is contraindicated with hernias, dislocations, fractures (bone or stress fractures), slipped discs, tendon rupture, infections, bleeding, skin damage, and burns.
Do you have one of the many conditions that may benefit from cupping? Book today!