What cupping can do for you.
Cupping became fashionable when the world watched the Rio Summer U.S. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and U.S. gymnast Alex Naddour, with red circular marks across their backs and shoulders. Both Phelps and Naddour believe that cupping treatment provided them with an athletic edge. Belarus swimmer Pavel Sankovich wrote on his Instagram account: “Cupping is a great recovery tool.”
So, you may be wondering ‘what is cupping therapy?’
Cupping is one aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), frequently used after acupuncture or plum blossom treatment.
It is done by applying a cup to the skin and then reducing pressure (either through heat or by suction) in order to draw and hold skin and superficial muscles inside the cup. Sometimes, while the suction is active, the cup is moved, causing the skin and muscle to be pulled. This is called gliding cupping.
Cupping is applied to certain acupuncture points as well as to parts of the body that have been affected by pain.
Cupping is based on the meridian theory of the body. It removes any stagnation in the body and opens the meridians so that qi can flow freely. It also helps to rejuvenate certain meridians and any organs that are not functioning at their best.
From a scientific standpoint
Cupping is known to help activate the lymphatic system, promote blood circulation, and is good for deep tissue repair. Cupping helps with micro-circulation in the areas where the cups are placed. If there has been an injury or soft tissue restriction in a certain spot, cupping not only improves blood flow to the area, but can actually create new blood vessels.
Cupping can also help flush out toxins as the excess blood is removed from the area and as the body heals the bruising. It can also dilute inflammatory markers by bringing more blood to the area that has been cupped.
Almost every other kind of soft tissue therapy is compressive. Cupping is distractive and pulls layers of muscle, skin and fascia away from each other as some tissue is sucked up into the cup. This creates a micro-trauma that kicks the body’s healing mechanism into high gear. Cupping doesn’t replace other therapeutic work but can complement it.
Other than improving circulation, what other benefits does cupping have?
Sometimes athletes get a buildup of interstitial fluid, that can cause secondary injury to healthy cells in that area. Cupping can help flush this fluid out. If someone has been struggling with pain, cupping can hit a kind of neurological reset button that helps reduce pain sensations. The mechanoreceptor stimulation that cupping causes is also believed to trigger the release of pain-blocking neurotransmitters in the brain.
Is cupping a one-size-fits-all method or are there different techniques?
With my patients I use several techniques. If I have concerns over the athlete’s general physiology then I’ll use static-static cupping, in which I’ll place several cups on the patient while they’re still and leave them in place.
For an athlete who has a fascial restriction I’ll lubricate the skin and then perform dynamic-static cupping, in which they remain still but I move the cups around slowly.
Finally, if someone is having trouble restoring movement to a motion segment, I’ll try using static cup placement while they’re moving. For example, putting cups on their lower back while they are in Child’s Pose to help a lumbar spine problem.
Will those nasty bruises go away?
Some people’s bruise patterns certainly get pretty colourful but as the body responds to the micro-trauma the bruising starts to dissipate. Most athletes find it goes away completely in 3 to 7days, depending on their individual physiology, general health, and other factors. So, no, Michael Phelps won’t be scarred for life by cupping!
In conclusion, cupping is an excellent form of treatment for stiffness or muscular pain in the neck shoulder, back, calves, and hamstrings. This therapy can also limit the inflammation and overall pain in the body. As a result, it helps to enhance physical and mental relaxation which naturally boosts the well-being of the patient.
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