What is Cupping?
Cupping is an ancient body therapy that has been used for centuries across the globe. Cupping employs “negative pressure” by pulling upwards on the tissue with suction. During a standard massage, therapists are limited to compressing the tissue towards the body and stretching the muscles from side-to-side. Adding the negative pressure of cupping greatly increases the areas of the body that can be reached during manual therapy. It is highly effective at stretching fascia, breaking up scar tissue, addressing orthopedic problems, reducing pain, and promoting lymphatic drainage to flush toxins from the body. Please see below for a detailed description of how cupping works, what to expect, contraindications, and the history of cupping.
The massage therapists at Kriss Chiropractic and Maple Valley Massage are trained and certified by the International Cupping Therapy Association (ICTA). We currently use 4 types of cups in our treatments: Silicone Baguanfa Cups, Kangzhu Plastic cups with a hand pump, Bells glass cups with a rubber plunger to create suction, and a Bellatazze facial cupping set with softer rubber plungers for the fragile skin of the face. Below is a list of cupping therapies that we offer:
Gentle gliding over the skin using silicone cups with increasing pressure. This is used to loosen fascia, increase circulation, promote lymphatic drainage, correct posture imbalances, and reduce muscle spasms and tension. This is a relaxing treatment that feels different than any other manual therapy you have experienced! The soft silicone cups are used to stretch and pull the superficial muscles, as well as access the deeper muscles in the area that can’t be reached with standard massage. Sometimes cups are left for a minute or so in trouble areas – often done in conjunction with Static cupping.
Cups are placed on specific problem-areas to target trigger points and adhesions in the underlying tissues. The cup is left in place for 5-15 minutes, where it works deeper and deeper to break apart the adhesions and release even stubborn trigger points that cause pain and tension. Treatment is continued on other parts of the body while the static cups are working.
Cups are applied to the abdomen and moved along the digestive track in order to stimulate the intestines and colon. Abdominal cupping helps relieve constipation and promotes healthy digestive processes. It can help reduce problems associated with IBS, Crohns Disease, low back pain, and many other stomach issues.
Abdominal cupping is done gently at first with increasing intensity over multiple sessions. It is important to drink as much room-temperature water as possible over the next several hours after cupping to help aid in flushing the digestive track. You can expect multiple bowel movements over the next 24-72 hours
How Abdominal Cupping Works:
- Releases the twists and torsions that can develop in the bowels
- Frees movement of dysfunctional valves
- Mobilizes congealed mucus that coats the microvilli of the small intestine in order to allow proper absorption of nutrients
- Balancing the internal organs
- Clears trapped gases, blockages, toxic build-up, accumulated waste, and water retention
- Strengthens the walls and connective tissue of the uterus, gall bladder, intestines, and bowels
- Increases production of digestive fluids and blood/lymph flow
- Loosens and evacuates excess bile stored in the gall bladder
A series of plastic cups equipped with positive and negative rare earth magnets are applied to the skin using a hand pump. The cups are placed in an alternating pattern over the upper back, creating a “blanket” of suction and left in place for up to 15 minutes. This is a general treatment with a multitude of benefits, including increased blood flow, fascial release, reducing overall tension, and stimulating the natural healing force inside the body.
Cellulite cupping is done over a series of treatments with increasing intensity. Typically the plastic Kangzhu cups are used (with the hand pump to create suction) to loosen the fascia with a combination of static and massage-style cupping. Since this is a vigorous treatment, it is done according to the client’s comfort level. The more aggressive treatments will see faster results, however it is possible to work slowly in order to minimize discomfort. A standard treatment schedule is 1x-week for 6 weeks. This can vary depending on how much physical area is being treated and how aggressive the treatment is.
How Cellulite Cupping Works:
When it comes to the cause of cellulite, there is an abundance of information available online. Here is a very brief summary: The problem is in the most superficial layer of fat under the skin (the subcutaneous layer). This area is structurally unique from other fat stores because it has a honeycomb-like web of fat chambers that are anchored and supported by surrounding strands of connective fascia called Septa. This layer provides cushioning, insulation, and structural support for our skin and helps regulate temperature. Age, hormones, diet, and lifestyle can have a detrimental effect on this layer of tissue, causing the Septa to harden prematurely and allowing the chambers to become warped. The warped chambers push some of the fat globules against the skin above to create a cottage-cheese like or dimpled appearance. Cupping is the perfect tool to realign these fat chambers because it is particularly effective at loosening and restoring proper function to the fascia. Over a series of treatments, the hardened fascia (Septa) is worked with the cups in order to restore the smooth appearance you once had.
Small glass cups with gentle suction are moved over the face, neck and upper chest. This exercises the cutaneous layer of the skin and helps with flaccidity, expression lines, dehydration, and poor circulation. One side of the face is done at a time, and lymphatic fluid is drained regularly through the neck and into the lymphatic drains of the upper chest. This therapy feels like a micro-massage for the face, and is very relaxing. Many people fall asleep during treatment.
After one treatment skin feels warmer, tighter, lighter, and more stimulated. The pores are open and the blood is flowing so this is a perfect time to apply a facial mask or do a moisturizing treatment. The long-term effects build over a series of facial sessions. A typical Facial treatment schedule is 2x-week for 3 weeks and then 1x-week until the desired results are achieved. Maintenance therapy is suggested at 1x-month to start, with increasing duration between maintenance treatments.
How Facial Cupping Works:
- Stimulates fibroblasts to increase collage production and improve elasticity
- Strengthens the dermis of the face by correcting circulation deficiencies
- Breaks up scar tissue
- Reduces swelling and detoxifies, which makes for a more youthful appearance (without Botox!)
- Decreases muscle tension to ease expression lines
- Stimulates cellular production of ATP which carries energy to the cells, helping them accept fluid and plumping them up
- Moisturizes skin by increasing local circulation of blood. Facial coloring is improved, Droopy eyelids are lifted and sagging/double chins are minimized
- Decreases swelling and puffiness by stimulating manual lymphatic drainage. Drains stagnant fluids and reduces edema of the face. It also stimulates thyroid, adrenal, eye, ear, sinus, and brain functions
- Tightens pores, improving hormonal imbalances to help with acne and reduce signs of stress in the face
- Addresses sinus infection and inflammation with the loosening and draining effect of suction
A series of silicone or rubber cups are strategically placed on the muscles of the body using heavy suction in order to pin the muscles in place. The body part is then taken through a series of stretches and movements. This allows for an intense targeted stretch for areas that are otherwise difficult to access, such as the shoulder girdle, mid-back, or low-back region. This treatment is especially beneficial for athletes or people with chronic orthopedic issues.
Silicone and Rubber cups are used along the bottom of the foot and the calf to stretch the Plantar Fascia and relieve the pain associated with Plantar Fasciitis. This therapy is very effective, although dry and scaly feet may not hold the suction needed for an effective treatment. Feet should be cleaned, exfoliated and well-moisturized before cupping therapy is performed on them.
Cups are used along the jaw, neck, and upper chest to release the bound-up fascia around the TemporoMandibular joint on each side of the face. This therapy is highly effective at reducing the pain, stiffness, and clicking associated with TMJD and other jaw problems. TMJ cupping is done over a series of treatments, typically 1 or 2 times per week for 4 to 6 weeks or until the desired results are achieved.
Cupping Information & FAQ:
Cupping employs “negative pressure” by pulling upwards on the tissue with suction. During a standard massage, therapists are limited to compressing the tissue towards the body and stretching the muscles from side-to-side. Adding the negative pressure of cupping greatly increases the areas of the body that can be reached during manual therapy. Often, people who’ve received massage several times (but still have lingering pain and tension) are astounded by the relief they get from cupping treatment. Cupping pulls on the superficial structures, which pull on the structures below them, allowing access to the deeper tissues in the body. This allows access to body tissues that are difficult to manipulate by hand, such as the ligaments under the knee cap, the IT Band, the shoulder joint capsule, or the intercostal muscles between the ribs. Because they work so deeply, the cups often find and treat hidden problem-areas that have plagued a person for years.
Cupping is particularly useful at stretching fascia (connective tissue). Fascia can be found interweaving throughout every inch of the body: running directly under the skin, encapsulating muscles and organs, supporting nerves and blood vessels, attaching muscles to bones, providing postural support, and aiding in steady joint movement. In the past, fascia was viewed as nothing more than the passive “filler” material of the body whose only purpose was to support the more important structures around it. However, fascial research has exploded in popularity over the past few decades. This has led to new information about the intricacy of the fascial system and the important role that it plays in a person’s overall well-being. Fascial problems can be caused by dehydration, lack of movement, repetitive movements, poor posture, traumatic injury, unhealthy scar tissue from injury or surgery, and many other things. Cupping works directly on the fascia by breaking up adhesions and scar tissue and restoring healthy movement to fascial structures.
Cupping also helps to release toxins that have been trapped in the tissues of the body. The byproducts of cellular respiration are meant to be cleansed by the circulatory and lymphatic systems. However, poor circulation, injury, and dehydration can lead to a local build-up of those toxins in the surrounding tissues. Toxins can also be brought into the body through the food we eat, the air we breathe, or the chemicals that our skin is exposed to. Cupping pulls these toxins closer to the surface, where it can be excreted by the pores or else picked up by the lymphatic and circulatory systems and properly flushed out. Cupping also pulls fresh revitalized blood to stagnant areas to promote healing.
Cupping creates space in the tissues being treated, rather than compressing the area, which facilitates circulation and lymphatic drainage. It also stimulates fibroblasts to increase collagen production and improve elasticity of the skin. Cupping can aid in digestion by stimulating the intestines and helping to cleanse the colon. It can break up cellulite and reduce the appearance of scars. The stimulating and far-reaching effects of cupping have a positive impact on skin, muscles, fascia, joints, and healthy body function.
Many people are shocked by the discolorations that can occur after cupping treatment. It is important to recognize that these are not bruises. Bruises are caused by traumatic or compressive injury and are typically painful to the touch. Cupping marks vary from person to person, according to the level of dysfunction in the area being cupped. If a person sweats a lot on a daily basis no marks may even occur, whereas people living or working in a toxic environment may consistently mark.
The marks are a result of stagnant blood, lymph, cellular debris, pathogenic factors, and toxins in the body being released during the cupping process. The color and pattern vary from bright red to dark purple and they usually last from 3 days to a week (sometimes longer if the person is sick, sedentary, or poorly hydrated). After multiple cupping therapies, the marks typically decrease in appearance as the areas being treated are detoxified and healthy blood flow is restored. Staying hydrated and active will help decrease the appearance of the marks.
Wear your marks proudly! It is a sign that you are health-conscious and are personally invested in maintaining your overall well-being. Be sure to warn your friends and family ahead of time to expect the discolorations, in order to avoid alarming anyone who may interpret the marks as bruises and suspect abuse. Refer them to our website or to the International Cupping Therapy Association website www.cuppingtherapy.org to educate them on the abundant health benefits of cupping treatment.
Preparing for Cupping is similar to preparing for a massage. You want to arrive well-hydrated and with a clean body. However, you should not shave within 4 hours before your cupping session, or use heavy exfoliation to clean skin. It is important that you are well-hydrated before the session. This does not mean guzzling a small bottle of water on your way to our office. To properly hydrate yourself, you should drink small amounts of water and natural juices continuously for 24-48 hours before your appointment. Cupping releases toxins from your tissues, which need to be flushed out over the next several days. Drinking alcohol prior to receiving cupping is not recommended, because it dehydrates your tissues and puts extra strain on the detoxifying systems of the body. If you have never received cupping, or if you have a weakened immune system, it may help to prepare your body by avoiding red or processed meats, dairy, caffeine, sugar, and processed white foods. Below is a full list of reasons why you should avoid Cupping Therapy.
Cupping therapy is performed on a massage table in a closed environment. Draping is done similar to a massage, where only the part of the body being treated is uncovered by the sheet. If you would like to see what the cups look like, or how they work, just ask and your therapist can show them to you before you get on the table. Once you are on the table, oil is applied to the skin to help the cups stick and glide more easily. Your therapist may begin with standard massage or use light suction with the cups in order to do a general warm-up of the tissues and assess which areas will benefit most from each type of cupping. During the cupping treatment, some cups are moved constantly in a gliding motion over the skin, and others stay in place to work problem-areas. Just like during a massage, your therapist will communicate with you regularly to check your level of comfort and explain the process. There is a full description of each treatment in the “Cupping Services” above.
Cupping therapy is not meant to be painful. Most people initially describe cupping as an "odd" sensation, because their tissues have never been stretched in an upwards direction. Some people experience an immediate sense of relief when the cups are applied, and others report feeling almost nothing until greater suction is used. This depends on each person’s unique nervous system, and how bound-up the fascia is in the area being treated. Similar to massage, some people experience greater relief from lighter suction, where others enjoy the sensation of a more intense treatment. Also, just like massage, the tissues are warmed up with general lighter suction before more specific work is done deeply. Careful communication throughout the process allows you to be in control of how much pressure is used. Be sure to inform your therapist if you are uncomfortable and the proper adjustments will be made.
Cupping therapy releases toxins that may have been trapped in your tissues for years. Your immune system will be working hard to flush out those toxins, so you should avoid any extreme environments or activities that may exasperate the cleansing process over the next 4 to 6 hours. This includes prolonged exposure to cold, wet, and/or rainy conditions, hot showers, baths, saunas, hot tubs, and aggressive exercise that your body is not accustomed to. Continue to drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary or processed foods to aid in the cleansing process.
Each person's body will react differently to the cupping therapy. People report a wide variety of temporary side-effects, including increased energy levels, brain fog, increased appetite, sleeping better than they have in years, or feeling wiped-out. It is important to listen to your body and give it what it needs in the hours after your session. A very small percentage of people (usually those with heavy toxicity) report mild flu-like symptoms after their first few cupping treatments. Symptoms could include nausea, headache, or stomach problems. This is a temporary reaction due to the bloodstream being flooded with the previously-trapped toxins. The symptoms will subside as the toxins are flushed out of the body. Drinking extra water and resting will speed up the cleansing process. All the side effects of cupping are temporary, and will decrease with time as the body is cleansed of toxins.
There is no reason to expect that you will feel bad after cupping therapy. Many people experience no noticeable side-effects at all. It is most common to have people report that they are enjoying greater flexibility and ease-of-movement, and that their chronic pain levels and tension have been greatly reduced.
Cupping is not appropriate for broken bones, dislocations, hernias, slipped discs, organ failure, liver or kidney functional illness, cardiopathy, 3D varicosities, systemic cancers, and those undergoing cancer therapies. It should not be used on areas of skin that are sunburned, ruptured, ulcerated, inflamed, or directly over recent surgical incisions. Avoid cupping when you have high fever or convulsion, or if you are an easy bleeder. Your therapist should minimize cup use if you are visibly exhausted, hungry, or emotionally upset.
Pregnant women should wait until the second trimester to receive cupping, unless they have been receiving regular cupping treatments before the pregnancy. Pregnant women should also ensure that their cupping therapist is trained in the proper procedures and precautions that are employed during pregnancy for the safety of mother and child.
Someone who is new to cupping should receive lighter therapies at the beginning of their cupping treatment. Beginning with low intensity pressure and cupping for shorter periods of time help your therapist to get a proper gauge of how your body will react. This is also the case for people on blood thinners, hemophiliacs, those with high or low blood pressure, and diabetics.
Cupping is one of the oldest and most globally practiced medical treatments in human history. In historical stone carvings and drawings, evidence is found of cupping being used by the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Nordics, Celts, Ottoman Turks, Persians, Polish, Brazilians, Mayans, Aztecs, Russians, Slavs, Italians, and healers throughout the Islamic Nations. Suction therapy was also used by various indigenous tribes in Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands, and the Americas. Early cupping tools were gourds, animal horns, stone, bones, nuts, seashells, bamboo, earthenware, and metals. A small hole in the tool would be used to create suction in many of these tools, or else fire was used to create suction in a hollowed out container and then placed upon the skin.
The use of medicinal cupping was described in one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, which was compiled by the Egyptians as far back as 1,550 B.C. In Chinese/Eastern medicine, archeologists have found evidence of cupping dating back to 1,000 BC. Cupping was also endorsed by Hippocrates in his writings as a treatment for a variety of ailments. Although cupping has been documented in these historical medical texts, and many more, it is not only a treatment performed by physicians and healers. Cupping as a home medical treatment has been passed down from Grandmother to Mother to Child for many centuries.
Historical evidence abounds of cupping being used in various forms throughout history and across multiple cultures for healing. Fire cupping is popular in China and other Eastern cultures, where a flame is used to heat the air inside the cup to create suction and release toxins from the tissues and restore a person’s “Jing Chi”. It is often used in conjunction with acupuncture and moxibustion. Throughout Europe and the Middle East, a form of “wet” cupping is used, where the skin is punctured and the cups aid in pulling toxic blood from the body. Cupping has been used to treat infections, skin lesions, fever, muscle and joint pain, vertigo, menstrual imbalances, headache, abdominal pain, and to speed up the “healing crisis” curve of many common diseases. Documentation also shows cupping being used during surgery to help direct the flow of blood away from the surgical site and to pull venom from snakebites.
Cupping therapy began to decline in Western society when Fraternal Medicine labeled it as “folk medicine” in the late 1800’s. It was neither taught nor promoted as part of the new Internal Medicine doctrine, and it slowly disappeared as a treatment option in the United States. Despite Western decline, cupping has remained popular throughout Europe, Russia, South America, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, and Asia.
In recent decades, more and more people have begun to seek out natural alternatives to the many surgeries and medications that are offered by traditional Western Medical doctors. Cupping is again growing in popularity as a treatment for skin problems, muscle tension, the circulatory system, nerve problems, joint pain, exercise recovery, digestive blockages, posture imbalances, respiratory issues, and many other common ailments.
The “well-kept secret” of cupping was popularized further by US Olympic champion Michael Phelps who was seen with cupping marks during the 2016 Summer Olympics. Many celebrities have been photographed in recent years proudly showing off their cupping marks, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Justin Bieber, Freida Pinto, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian West, and Lena Dunham.
Cupping has been around for thousands of years. However, as technology and medical knowledge have advanced, cupping methods and tools have grown with it. The cups we use today are made of glass, silicone, plastic, rubber, and other modern materials. Although many practitioners still use fire to heat the air inside of a glass cup and create suction, it has also become popular to use hand pumps, rubber plungers, or electronic vacuums. These tools allow greater control over the level of suction, and the new customized tool shapes and sizes can apply perfectly to each part of the body. Cupping is often done in conjunction with other therapies, such as acupuncture, cosmetology, massage, and physical therapy. It is important to check your therapist’s cupping certifications before committing to treatment to ensure you will receive the highest quality of care.