Massage Cupping

Massage cupping is essentially the inverse of the typical massage therapy. Instead of exerting pressure on the different points of the body for healing, massage cupping uses suction to to tug the skin, tissues and muscles upwards. Massage cupping has been known to be used over the centuries by all cultures and the oldest records of traditional Chinese medicine talk about using the therapy to cure a range of ailments. In contemporary times, massage cupping is seen as an effective, non-invasive, inexpensive, and safe form of treatment that can be used by itself or in combination with other forms of therapeutic approaches. Because of its versatility, it is being used in physical therapy, chiropractics, and in spa treatments.

For massage cupping, I recommend this set of highly reviewed silicone cups. These silicone cups will be easier to glide across the skin than traditional glass sets making the actual massaging more comfortable (and you don’t need a pump or flame)

How it Works

When the therapist exerts suction on the different points on the body by way of massage suction, certain changes are brought about up to four inches inside the body. These changes stimulate the body to heal itself. Massage cupping results in:

  • Promoting the flow of blood to the muscles and tissues, and removing stagnation
  • Supplying oxygen and nutrients to the cells
  • Softening the tightened muscles
  • Loosening of adhesions and knots
  • Lifting the connecting tissues
  • Opening the blockages of the lymphatic nodes and easing the flow of lymph
  • Releasing and draining of excess fluids and toxins like lactic acid from the tissues and cells
  • Drawing inflammation from the deeper tissues to the surface of the skin so they can heal
  • Stimulating and later, calming the peripheral nervous system
  • Eliminating chronic congestion

Massage cupping can be used to treat ailments like stiff muscles, stress, migraines, fatigue and exhaustion, and back and neck pain. It can also be used in rheumatism, weight loss and cellulite reduction treatments. Muscles that have been injured, undergone trauma or exertion, accumulate lactic acid and other toxins. Massage cupping can be used to drain these toxins so the muscles can heal.

How it is Done

This form of therapy must always be taken from a trained and certified therapist.

  1. The first step is locating the points and sections of the body that need to be treated. Accordingly, the therapist uses the hands to palpate the muscles and joints, and thus, begins the relaxation process.
  2. A light oil such as sunflower, safflower or any other herbal oil is applied on the area where suction is to be created.
  3. The therapist uses medical grade silicone cups that are available in different sizes. The right-sized cup is selected depending on the area to be treated. Silicone cups are pliable so they are easy to move over the body and their transparency allows the therapist to monitor the condition of the skin. The skin color is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the treatment so the healer can make adjustments accordingly.
  4. The therapist then creates suction in the cup. This can be done in many ways. A burning object such as a cotton ball soaked in alcohol or paper can be inserted into the cup to heat it. Then, the object is removed and the cup is immediately inserted on the skin. It must be remembered that the skin is never burnt and the burning object is never allowed to come in contact with the skin.
  5. As the air inside the cup cools, a vacuum is created. Some therapists also choose to use cups on which a suction pump is attached. The pump creates the required vacuum in the cup and allows the therapist to create just the optimum amount of suction for the treatment to be effective.
  6. The therapist allows the cup to stay in place for a few minutes so that the muscles are loosened and relaxed. Then, the cup is gently moved over the skin in smooth motions so that the vacuum raises the skin and tissues.
  7. On certain sections where there is excessive stagnation or inflammation, the cups could drag a little or resist movement. This helps the therapist identify the areas that need special care.

Massage cupping can be used on upper arms and calves, thighs, abdomen, hips, sacral region, back, neck and shoulders. Areas such as the spine and scapula that are never treated in conventional massage therapy can be massaged using cupping, safely.

Techniques Used

This form of therapy makes use of different techniques and the healer designs the movements in keeping with the area of the body being treated. Each movement has a distinct healing effect.

Basic Strokes:

  • Circular strokes are used on the shoulders, thighs and hips
  • Lengthwise strokes on the back on both sides of the spine and on the rib cage to help with breathing.
  • Small cups are used to ease stress in the neck.

Cases Where the Skin is White or Light Pink in Color:

Once suction is created, the healer checks the color of the skin. If it is white or a light pink in color, this indicates that only slight suction is needed. Thus, three techniques are used such as vibration, shaking and friction.

  1. Vibration: The healer uses the suction and the cups to stimulate a vibration-like movement. He/she raises the skin to about an inch and then lowers it. This movement is performed in quick succession, a few times, on a specific area. Then, the next section of the skin is targeted.
  2. Shaking: The healer creates the necessary suction and then moves the cup back and forth on the designated area in a rapid movement. This movement causes a shaking in the body and is very effective in healing adhesions and attached tissues.
  3. Friction: In this technique, the therapist uses two cups, which are placed side by side. After a vacuum is created, the cups are gently moved away from each other. This movement works to stretch the fascial and connecting tissues, just as in myofascial release therapy.

Cases Where the Skin Color Ranges From Dark Red to Purple

After inducing suction, if the therapist notices that the skin is a darker color, this indicates that there is inflammation and congestion in the area. Thus, three techniques are used to drain the excessive fluids such as pumping, rolling rotation and parking.

  1. Pumping: In this technique, the healer places the cup on the skin and creates a vacuum. After leaving the cup in place for a few seconds, it is lifted completely off the skin. Then, it is placed back to create suction. This method is performed a few times, and helps to relieve the stagnation in the targeted tissues.
  2. Rolling Rotation: The healer begins by creating suction and then lifting the skin a little. Holding the cup in the elevated position, the cupping is gently moved over the affected area. If the cup releases suction at a certain point and simply pops off, that is an indication that there are fascial restrictions at the spot. This condition can be treated accordingly.
  3. Parking: When performing this technique the healer leaves the suctioned cup in position for about 3 minutes at a time. This technique is useful in treating the trigger points, manipulating joints and helps to separate the bone from the soft tissues. Thus, healing is induced. Adhesions can also be healed using this treatment.

Effects of the Therapy

Massage cupping is a highly effective form of therapy because it allows the therapist to heal the deeper tissues in the body without causing any discomfort to the patient. Patients also report that the effects of the sessions last them for a good while. They also say that each consecutive session seems to enhance the healing of the previous one.

  1. Patients undergoing the treatment experience a deep warmth and tingling sensation in the tissues. They feel completely relaxed and many often slip into a deep sleep. Many therapists combine massage cupping with typical massages for better results.
  2. Massage cupping typically does not result in the discoloration of the skin for long periods. Some reddening of the skin is noticed and this shows that blood circulation is enhanced and is reaching the upper layers of the skin.
  3. If the patient does see some small marks, it shows that the congestion at that particular spot has been released.
  4. When treating cellulite, the therapist might first use a light suction to achieve drainage of the excess fluids. Next, a stronger suction is used to promote blood circulation and loosen the adhesions that cause the dimpling of the skin. If massage cupping can be applied before wrapping the thighs and hips, the treatment can be more effective.

After Therapy Care

After the session is completed, the therapist could apply a cold compress to relax the skin. If needed, essential oils, liniments, analgesics or plant hydrosols might also be applied. These salves work to promote the blood circulation to the particular sections and thus, nourish the muscles and tissues. They also help to clear away toxins and harmful fluids.

Safety and Precautions

Massage cupping is absolutely safe to use and can be performed on patients of all ages including kids, adults and elderly people. Before beginning the treatment, the therapist will conduct a complete study of the past medical history of the patient. It must be remembered that although the treatment looks simple to perform, in fact, it needs specialized training. Always look for a Certified Massage Cupping Practitioner (CMCP) when considering getting treatment.

Be sure to view our List of Massage Cupping Supplies

< Back to Cupping Techniques

1. http://www.webmd .com/balance/guide/cupping-therapy
2. http://www.massagetoday. com/archives/2004/02/04.html
3. http://www.pacificcollege .edu/news/blog/2014/09/20/many-benefits-chinese-cupping
4. http://www.reliefclinicmassage .com/what-is-massage-cupping/
5. http://www.mindbodygreen. com/0-16791/3-reasons-everyone-should-try-cupping.html
6. http://www.integrativehealthcare.o rg/mt/archives/2014/06/massage-cupping-feeling-issues-in-the-tissues.html