Cupping Therapy for Shoulder and Neck Pain

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Did you know that close to 65% Americans between the age of 18 and 35 experience chronic neck and shoulder pain? If you were under the impression that only older people have this problem, think again because neck and shoulder pain is more common that you think. And, cupping therapy may well be one of the most effective healing modalities that can help you with the condition.

Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain

Cupping Therapy for Shoulder and Neck Pain

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Neck and shoulder pain can result from many factors, only one of which is an injury that hasn’t healed despite your taking care of it. While arthritis and meningitis are medical causes, other factors that can contribute to the condition include a strain, or sprain. You can also have neck and shoulder pain because of poor posture or spending long hours at a desk job without moving and changing your position. If you accidentally slept for too long in an awkward pose or made a sudden move with your neck, you might have severe pain. As an athlete, if you play a sport that involves the use of your shoulder muscles, you can develop chronic pain. Do keep in mind that sometimes, headaches and migraines can also result from neck pain.

The Science Behind Why Cupping can Help

Neck and shoulder pain is a manifestation of the stretched myofascial tissues in the area. When cupping is performed, it lifts the skin from the myofascial network by creating a vacuum. As blood rushes to fill the empty space, it brings with it fresh nutrients and oxygen. This infusion works to heal the affected area by clearing away the knots and constrictions in the muscles. In addition to blood, the area also receives more lymph. Knots and stiffness can also be caused by a buildup of toxins, dead cells, and other debris. The lymph works to clear the toxins and cleanse it so that healing is further promoted.

The Philosophy Behind the Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy

While science has a perfectly valid explanation of how cupping therapy works, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) explains it in a slightly different way. TCM believes in the free flow of life energy inside the meridians of the body. As long as the energy flow remains unobstructed, the person remains healthy, but any snags in this flow can cause ailments and illnesses. For this reason, TCM aims to release the blockages and thus heal the affected tissues after an injury.

Science says that healed tissues receive a lower amount of blood supply. That’s because the scars that form after an injury or strain are tougher than the original tissues. Cupping therapy can help restore the blood supply to the affected area so that healing is stimulated again. For this reason, the modality can work on chronic pain that may result from old injuries and strains also.

How Cupping Therapy is Performed

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As the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports, cupping must be performed on the specific acupuncture points that are the focal points of the injured tissues. A certified therapist is trained in identifying these trigger points and knows how to locate them. They are the LI 15, SI 15, and GB 21 of the soft tissues on the neck and shoulders.

Each cupping session lasts for around 20 to 30 minutes. You will be asked to sit in a chair with your feet resting on the ground with the neck and shoulders exposed. Alternatively, you might be asked to lie on the therapist’s table face down. Cups will be placed on the acupuncture points after which suction is caused by way of a pump or any other technique. After a few minutes, the cups are removed. This technique is dry cupping.

Depending on the severity of the pain and your comfort levels, your therapist might offer to use wet cupping or massage cupping. Some therapists may also suggest a combination of cupping therapy with acupuncture for better pain relief. You can rest assured that all precautions will be taken to maintain hygienic, sterile conditions so that there is no possibility of side effects and infections.

Again, depending on how you respond to the treatment, your therapist can suggest that you come back for 4 to 6 follow-up sessions taken once a week. You’re likely to notice a few red marks and bruises but they are not painful to the touch and clear away within a few days.

With each progressive session, patients typically talk about how the stiffness and pain eases, and they find that movement is much easier. You can rely on cupping therapy as a non-invasive, safe modality to help you get relief from neck and shoulder pain. Though, you must inform your medical practitioner about the therapy you’re getting so he can plan your other medications and treatment accordingly.

References:
“Neck Pain and Back Pain Relief with Cupping” AcuHealth. n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Chi, Lee-Mei, Lin, Li-Mei, et al. “The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The National Center for Biotechnology Information. 17 Mar. 2016. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.
Mukherjee, Bipasha. “Top 6 Acupressure Points for Treating Neck and Shoulder Pain.” Modern Reflexology. n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2017.

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