All About Cupping
In Motion with Morrison Blog
Written by Aubrey Morrison
MS Sports Medicine, CSCS, Licensed Massage Therapist #16763
We get a lot of questions regarding the cupping technique, and many people are hesitant to try
it after seeing someone else’s circle marks, having a bad experience with it, or just not wanting
to try something new that they just may not understand. This article is to clear up any confusion, explain what cupping does and what the marks mean (they are NOT bruises!), and what you can expect from different kinds of cupping!
First of all, cupping is nothing new, even though it has just within the last few years become popular. The Chinese have used cupping for thousands of years! Traditional cupping involves glass cups that create suction with the use of fire – sounds scary, but it’s not when done correctly, and at Coastal Massage and Wellness, we don’t do that kind here. We use silicone or plastic!
Cupping is the opposite of normal compressive massage (i.e., deep tissue). The cups create suction to decompress the muscles, fascia, and skin. This does several things: increases blood flow to the area (and by doing so decreases inflammation/pain and speeds up healing), stretches and lifts and separates soft tissue, breaks apart scar tissue, and pulls stagnant blood and toxins from muscle and brings it to the surface to be cleared by the lymphatic system. Cupping can help INCREASE muscle length and IMPROVE joint range of motion. They are also useful in reducing overall muscle tension and improving relaxation!
Cups can be left in on spot for up to several minutes, moved and glided across the skin, or used in conjunction with movement. The goal of your massage session and whatever the problem is will determine what cupping techniques are used. The stronger the suction, the deeper the treatment; lighter suction is still very beneficial and is really quite relaxing!
Now let’s talk about the marks that typically left after a cupping session. Despite the appearance of a bruise, it is not a bruise at all. Bruises come from being hit hard enough to break blood vessels; the cups are actually doing just the opposite and pulling upward, not pressing down with force. The marks are what has been drawn out of the muscle, and the different ways they look indicate what is going on with the muscle. When the mark is just pink-ish red, that is an indication of healthy blood flow and healthy tissue. A mark with lots of little darker “dots” indicate toxins and wastes being pulled from the muscle that were stuck in there. A slightly purple mark indicates mild blood stagnation, and a dark purple mark indicates heavy blood stagnation! Healthy tissue will not leave purple coloring, so although it may look scary, it is actually a good thing that it was all removed from the muscle and that you needed it!! When a cup doesn’t bring any color to an area at all, that is actually a sign that blood flow is deficient there; also, not good, but cups help increase that blood flow. Often the first cupping session will leave the darker marks that may stick around for a week or so. After much of the stagnant blood/toxins have been removed from that first session, marks will not be nearly as dark after that!
If you have pain or restricted movement in an area, that is where you will probably get cupping marks. When a muscle is injured or restricted, circulation is affected, causing blood to stagnate and metabolic waste and toxins will build up instead of be removed. Lack of new blood being circulated means no oxygen, nutrients, hydration, white blood cells, or anything else that is essential for a muscle to thrive and have inflammation controlled and healed! This is why it is very important to draw out everything that is stuck, and bring in new healing blood supply.
Not every cupping session will leave marks, and if you want to try it but not leave with polka dots on you, we can certainly adjust the technique for that! I often use light, mobile cupping during sessions that are meant just for relaxation and not to target a specific area. We are happy to answer any questions or concerns you have about cupping! Just remember – the marks aren’t bruises! Book online at www.coastalmassagewellness.com