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What is Cupping Therapy?

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What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is an ancient treatment technique and it has many traditional uses.  Physiotherapists generally use cupping to treat the myofascial system (muscles and connective tissue).   Many patients report improvement in muscular pain and range of motion immediately after treatment.

How does cupping therapy work?

It is thought that cupping therapy works by improving circulation to local tissues through the vacuum that is created between the cup and the patient’s skin.  This vacuum has a mechanical effect on local tissues (similar to a massage, but in the reverse!) which can help improve circulation.

How can cupping therapy help?

Therapists generally use cupping to decrease muscle tension, improve range of motion and reduce muscle-related pain.  Many patients report feeling improvements in pain and function immediately after treatment but results may vary.  Cupping is yet another tool in your therapist’s repertoire and while it is helpful to many, results are dependant on many factors including the type and nature of the injury.

What are the risks and side effects of cupping therapy?

The most common side effect of cupping are the marks that the cups leave on the skin.  These marks vary in darkness and are around for a variable duration.  Another common side-effect is post-treatment soreness, similar to the soreness that can be felt after receiving a massage.

Risks side-effects should be discussed with your therapist prior to treatment.  There are various medical conditions in which cupping should be performed with great care or not at all.  There are also certain regions of the body that cupping should not be performed upon.  This article is not intended to list all of the contraindications of treatment!

Different types of cupping therapy

Silicon cups:  Vacuum is created by twisting / bending the cups prior to placing them on the skin.

Cups with pump:  Cups are placed on the skin and the vacuum is created through a pump.

Fire glass cupping:  A vacuum is created by inserting a flame into the cup and quickly removing it and placing the cup on the patient.

*some cultures use cupping therapy to literally draw blood from the body using the vacuum; this practice is not performed in physiotherapy clinics.

Please note

This article is not intended to be a literature review.  While some literature may be cited in some cases, this article should not be used as scientific-evidence of a treatment or service.  Please contact your physiotherapist or other appropriate health care provider to better understand the scientific literature supporting or refuting the use of a particular treatment.

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