Contemporary Cupping Therapy

What happens (procedure)?

Cupping derives from an Eastern medicine philosophy that presence of toxins in the body will also bring on pain. By cupping a particular area, toxins can accumulate in that region and with negative pressure effects (vacuum), the skin opens up the pores and accelerate the detoxification process. This is much similar to the idiom of “sweating out the toxins”. It’s an alternative treatment that is natural, non-invasive method of purging toxins from the body. There are two genres of cupping dry and wet. Wet cupping involves micro-lacerations of the skin while the region is suctioned/cupped much similar in philosophy to bloodletting. Dry cupping was just simply to allow stagnant cups to sit for some time before removal.

Most are familiar, when associating with cupping, have seen fire cupping. At Head 2 Toe, we utilize silicone cups that are quite flexible and can be used with active movement and plastic cups with a precision vacuum pump.

A massage oil is used topically to help create the suction pressure of the cups. Next, cups are placed and to allow blood to accumulate in the areas. Then we move to the more uncomfortable procedure of dynamic cupping; where the cups, with less pressure, are gliding over the skin. The cup is bundling up muscle fascia to stimulate the release of mechanical tension (neuromuscular and central nervous system theories).

What are these bruise marks?

The accumulation of circulatory blood to a region resembles a bruise, but without the blood factors that contribute to injury that typically result in edema. In theory, toxins or stagnant elements are drawn away from normal blood circulation. Stagnant blood is what contributes to the pain and dysfunction of musculoskeletal structures. Those elements are densely drawn out superficially to the skin to be purged.

Benefits of cupping?

Cupping has also regained popularity due to the direct effect on the skin especially in those with cellulite or wrinkles. The theory is that the collagen elasticity of the underlying skin layer is rejuvenated due to activation of the vacuum effect of the cup. Essentially this is a “flattening” procedure to even out all the lumps in the skin.

Is it the best treatment?

This is not necessarily the go-to for every medical condition. There are contraindications for those with a history of blood clots or dermatological conditions that should be wary of the technique. It has been observed that cupping can benefit pain management and promote relaxation of targeted muscles. If compressive massages do not respond well, the alternative of lifting and creating space mechanism of cupping provides another tool for treatment. The greatest gains with cupping are typically in combination with therapeutic exercises, joint mobilizations or active postural corrections.

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