Cupping is the suctioning of a person’s skin through the use of a vacuum seal, rupturing capillaries and pulling blood to the skin surface. This produces the characteristic round and large red and purple spots on the shoulder and back. It’s a very old healing therapy.
Coastal therapists in the ancient Mediterranean would lower patients into water cages to be ravaged by the suctions in the tentacles of octopuses. It wasn’t exactly modern science, but it was nonetheless, effective. At the end of the 19th century, city plumbers often moonlighted as medicine healers, using their plungers to pull unhealthy blood up to the skin surface. Around the 1950s, vacuum salesmen implemented deep suction to treat housewives of their obsession. At the start of the 1990’s angst-filled youths looking for kicks amidst the release of Nirvana CDs used suction hoses in swimming pools to improve skateboarding prowess and feel alive.
Does Cupping Really Have Any Benefits?
Cupping’s one incontrovertible benefit is that it gives a middle finger to the medical establishment that considers any type of ancient healing therapies as quackery or placebo therapy. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and especially Olympians such as Michael Phelps promoted this “pseudoscience” and have made this technique a bona fide healing therapy in the eyes millions of adoring young fans. Through their purplish red cupping marks, they had created an army of future Traditional Chinese Medicine healers.
Actually, members of the US swim team who were treated with cupping therapy weren’t much interested in the metaphysical aspects of the technique. According to their trainer, cupping had nothing to do with “life force” or “chi,”“meridians,” or “yin and yang.” For these athletes, it’s just another means to eliminate knots and adhesions in the fascial tissue supporting and wrapping the musculature of the athletes. Cupping aims to pull stuck fascia out of the muscle through decompression rather than attempting to take apart adhered tissues through compression.
Moreover, the athletes who have received treatment aren’t just lying there. As the cupping is administered, they are moving the problematic tissues using their full range of movement. This helps them regain tissue health and improve their movement patterns. According to the trainer, another huge benefit of cupping is that it works immediately. What may take weeks utilizing traditional types of myofascial release and physical therapy just takes less than 10 minutes with cupping.
Driven athletes would try anything that would give them an edge over their competitor. Of course, they ask for advice from reliable sources before they commit themselves to a certain technique. Sometimes, it works, sometimes, it does not. Cupping therapy, however, has millions of adherents that are willing to witness to its wonderful benefits. There are also clinical studies that attest to the effectiveness of this therapy.
For example, dry cupping has been proven in clinical studies to relieve chronic neck pain, as well as pain, stiffness and improve mobility in patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis. Dry cupping improved both objective and subjective measurements of pain.