What is Cupping Therapy and What Does it Do to Your Body?

Cupping Therapy has been used as a health-promoting modality in Ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures, among others. It has recently gained widespread popularity among Licensed Acupuncturists and Massage Therapists in the U.S. because of its effectiveness and relative ease of use.

The process consists of cups (which are traditionally made of natural materials such as bamboo or clay, but are now most commonly made of glass or silicone) being applied to a person’s body in a way that creates a vacuum between the inner surface of the cup and the person’s skin. Through this vacuum, a suction is created that facilitates the release of toxins from the body’s tissues from up to four inches below the surface. This suction also bringings new blood and lymphatic fluid to the region, allowing for an influx of fresh oxygen and other vital nutrients into the region and an increased capacity to transport waste materials out.

The most common treatment areas are the back and shoulders, however the options for application are nearly endless. Using proper techniques, cupping can be applied to any major surface of the body, including the abdomen to help support digestive function, and the face to promote the skin’s natural luster.

Cupping sessions often involve massage; when lotion is applied to the skin prior to the cups, they can be moved around above the skin while the suction (and therapeutic benefits) are still maintained. This allows for a larger treatment area and can help prevent marks, which we will go over later. Practitioners can massage the cups along the well-known Chinese Medicine meridian lines of the body, or along patterns of muscular tension (and oftentimes these overlap).

Top Three Benefits of Cupping Therapy
  • Relief from pain and inflammation. Cupping is like a “reverse massage,” in that it pulls toxins and tension up into the suctioned area where the cups rest on your body. Having these toxins pulled from deeper tissues allows them to re-enter into circulation for elimination from the body.  This means a reduction in inflammation and therefore from pain! Many people use cupping as a reliable way to alleviate muscle and joint pain. Structurally speaking, the Cupping is fantastic for freeing adhesions in the body’s network of connective and muscular tissue. Whether recovering from a recent injury or dealing with chronic and long standing pain, cupping therapy is an incredible, noninvasive way to bring healing to the body’s tissues and relief from your pain
  • Relaxation and wellbeing. In addition to being used for pain relief, cupping therapy is also able to treat anxiety, depression, fatigue and other similar ailments through it’s sedative effect on the nervous system. It is for this reason that cupping is commonly used to treat high blood pressure. Cupping therapy calms the nervous system out of the all too common “fight or flight” mode and into its parasympathetic state, where  all of the body’s natural healing processes take place. It is an extremely relaxing process that can impart that beautiful balance of relaxation and natural energy
  • A boosted immune system. From both  Chinese and Western Medicine perspectives, cupping therapy can provide a wonderful upgrade to a person’s immune system. The increased circulation and blood and qi, or life-force energy, naturally supports the body’s ability to maintain strength and prevent diseases from occurring. It helps to prevent swelling, relieve coughing, asthma and colds, and strengthen the digestive system (which is an integral component of immune health). Cupping may also release histamines which allows for immune system cells to enter more easily into capillaries.

Cupping can also be administered over certain meridian and acupressure points to affect change in the organs.  See the chart below from Health Veins for details:


How Long Does it Take to Recover from Cupping?

Remember the large round marks on Michael Phelps’s back during the 2016 Rio Olympics? Those were a typical example of cupping marks. The duration and intensity of the marks depends on the amount of stagnation and toxicity in the treatment area, as well as how long the cups were left on a person’s body. While some marks may last for up to 2-3 weeks, most dissipate within a week. If you are cupped on an area with a very low level of toxicity and tension, the marks may recede completely within a couple of hours.  

These marks are not actually bruises, as bruising is a process formed from traumas or injury while cupping marks are formed simply from the pressure of the suction pulling fluids towards the surface. In the case of bruising after an injury, blood capillaries are broken and the process of blood clotting, inflammation and swelling begins, as the immune system sends “fighter” cells to the region. Cupping actually works to reduce inflammation and pain in the body by easily drawing them out of stagnant tissues. Cupping marks are not painful, in fact, you will likely forget you have them until your friends point them out!

Is Cupping Safe?

Cupping is safe for almost everyone, but it’s always smart to double check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns as there are certain conditions that would discourage or prohibit their use. For instance, pregnant women should only be cupped under very careful supervision and people with cardiovascular disorders such as hemophilia should absolutely avoid cupping therapy.  

At Blue Marigold, we offer cupping add-on services using silicone cups, and will be adding Fire Cupping with glass cups to our menu in the Fall.  If you wish to receive a Cupping therapy as an add-on to any of your massages, simply add it during the Booking process after you have selected the 60 or 90 minute modality of your choice. We look forward to seeing you soon!