What is Cupping?
Cupping is an ancient form of healing that gained interest and popularity during the 2016 Olympics when swimmer Michael Phelps sported some round bruises on his back. Cupping is the application of glass, silicone, bamboo or plastic cups onto the body in a vacuum, creating a suction on the skin. Suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin. The body treats the cupping site like an injury and sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process.
Many cultures throughout the world use cupping, which attests to its many benefits as a therapy. Different types of practitioners use cupping as an essential therapy here in the United States. For example acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and massage therapists.
Cupping can be used for a variety of conditions such as:
- low back pain
- tight shoulders
- sports injury
- headaches, including migraine headaches
- non-specific aches and pains
At Lokahi Acupuncture, we use a form of cupping known as “dry cupping”.
Using glass cups, the practitioner will create a vacuum with gentle heat and then place the cup on the skin. The skin is then drawn into the cup causing the blood vessels near the surface to break. The cup is typically applied to the skin for about 5 minutes.
Dry cupping is our preferred method because it’s safe and doesn’t carry a risk of injury, and it’s sanitary with easy to sterilize cups.
1. Cupping increases blood flow
When the body has sustained an injury, the body’s healing mechanisms make sure that the area of injury has an increased flow of blood bringing nutrients and other cells to the rescue. Cupping helps increase that blood flow, known as vasodilation, to prevent scar tissue from forming or building up. This can help speed recovery.
2. Cupping decreases inflammation
It might sound counterintuitive; and although cupping increases blood flow, it also helps to decrease inflammation. Blood flow brings the cells necessary to reduce inflammation, and cupping increases that blood flow.
3. Cupping helps relax muscles
Working out, injury or certain stressors can cause muscles to be stiff and painful. Cupping helps decrease tightness, allowing the muscles to relax and recuperate. If muscles have been in a spasm for any length of time, cupping can be an extremely effective form of therapy to release that spasm, encouraging the body to heal.
4. Cupping eases pain
There is little consensus on exactly how cupping mitigates pain so well. One theory is that the process induces the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals the body produces that act on the brain to induce relaxation, pain reduction and mood elevation.
A few things to keep in mind
For many cupping is extremely relaxing, but for others it can be intense. Communicating with your practitioner ensures that you feel safe and that if you are experiencing anything more than minor pain, it can be taken care of.
Cupping causes round bruises following a session. These bruises vary from person to person and usually don’t last longer than a couple of days.
Receiving cupping from a qualified practitioner who is both licensed and experienced results in the best outcomes.
Our pain specialists at Lokahi Acupuncture have extensive experience in cupping, and use this therapy frequently to complement acupuncture treatments. If you are interested in scheduling a free online consultation, you can book here.