As a Myotherapist I have been using cupping therapy for the past 14 years and have found this method of treatment to be of great value. I have had a lot of success releasing the pain and discomfort of many soft tissue injuries and chronic conditions. The marks cupping leaves and how cupping works is often misunderstood, for example, cupping marks are not bruises but the release of toxic build up to coming the surface and initiating the body’s natural process to expel these toxins.
UNDERSTANDING CUPPING MARKS
Cupping has been practiced by the Chinese for thousands of years for the purpose of treating pain and disease. The marks often left by the cupping treatment are misunderstood and seen as damage being caused to the soft tissue of the body, this is not the case at all. True bruising is caused by some sort of trauma that damages the body’s soft tissue E.G. blunt force trauma, (a corky), in this case, there will also be inflammation as the result of a buildup of blood and sticky proteins that form part of the healing process. Sometimes this process stagnates and the buildup of excess fluids and toxins cause pain, dysfunction and the condition may then become chronic. Cupping works at a capillary level and is used to draw stagnant blood, lymph and toxins to the surface allowing the body’s natural systems to process these toxins. It is this process that causes the cupping marks on the surface of the body, cupping marks will range in colour from a light pink to a very dark purple. The intensity of discolouration and length of time the marks last depends on the number of toxins and stagnation within the soft tissue, the more toxic build up there is the greater the intensity of colour and the longer the colouration will take to disappear. A light pink discolouration may last from a couple of hours to a day, whereas dark purple marks may last up to a couple of weeks, an individual that has dark marking will need more regular cupping and over a course of treatments will see a great reduction in the discoloration and eventually to a light pink that only lasts for an hour or two. This will also mean a reduction in any pain or discomfort that they have been feeling in this region.
HOW CUPPING WORKS
Cupping therapy is used to treat a variety of painful conditions and assist in the repair of many soft tissue injuries. From removing the buildup of toxins and lactic acid and encouraging new oxygen-rich blood to the area, breaking up fascial adhesions and rehydration of the connective tissue, assists in the release of muscle trigger points and helps to stimulate the nervous system. As a result of this the client will feel a sense of relief, decrease in pain and an increase in the Range of motion of the particular region and an overall feeling of release and relaxation. Glass plastic or silicone type cups are used to create a vacuum over the area in which the cups are placed, this process affects the body’s soft tissue in different ways. The two common methods used are slide cupping in which the cup with extra oil is used in a sliding motion across the soft tissue, this method covers a greater area and use for a general release of a region. Static cupping is the use of one or several cups placed in strategic positions and left for several minutes for release of specific points, for example overactive trigger points.
In the case of toxin release the vacuum created expands the capillaries allowing them to become more porous and release the stagnant blood and lymph, while at the same time draws on the interstitial fluid (fluid excreted by the cells creating the environment in which the cells live), this, in turn, creates a space for a fresh flow of blood and fluid to enter the affected area bringing with it nutrients, oxygen and chemicals required to activate the body’s own healing process.
In the case of working with the fascia (the body’s connective tissue framework) cupping initiates the body’s natural healing process in several ways, BY breaking up fascial adhesions, rehydrating the fascia and stretching the tissue and associated muscles. Connective tissue can become sticky allowing the fibres to adhere to one another, the vacuum created by cupping helps to break these adhesive connections, this process also causes some microtrauma. In this controlled environment, the inflammatory response initiated is a positive response, bringing new blood the white blood cells and chemicals required for the body’s natural healing process. The other response in this process is what is known as neovascularization the formation of new blood vessels in the area involved, with the formation of these new blood vessels comes the ability for more blood rich in oxygen and nutrients. This process not only affects the fascia but the muscles as well.
This fascial network can be traced throughout the whole body, this interconnected network of connective tissue is often referred to as the “fascial meridians” or the “fascial trains”. Cupping therapy can have an enormous effect on this fascial network, for example, a cup is placed either side of the spine (erector spinae muscles and associated fascia) create a gentle tension through this whole fascial line that will affect the gluteals, hamstrings, calves and even the soles of the feet. This is known as the superficial back line as denoted by Renowned Rolfer and author Tom Myers.
Cups placed over an active trigger point (the focal point of muscular tension) will place a tension at this point stimulating the muscle to relax by affecting the muscle sense receptors, this also draws built up toxins out of the area and allows a flush of fresh nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to flow, this continuing the healing process.
As with massage, therapeutic cupping can help to sooth the nervous system and induce a state of relaxation for the client, this in my experience happens in two ways. One by releasing trapped peripheral nerves (nerve tethering a condition that can cause numbness and tingling into the limbs) as explained before the vacuum applied helps to break up the soft tissue around peripheral nerves allowing the neural signals to flow at the correct volume and speed. Second, the all over physical tension released from the body allows the person to relax, adding to the time out period they are taking for themselves to just lay, chill out and listen to gentle music in a peaceful environment all adds to the healing process.
- Therapeutic cupping is a great modality to use in adding with all sorts of conditions and aid healing.
- Releases trapped toxins
- Encourages new blood flow bringing restorative properties
- Breaks down fascial adhesions
- Helps rehydrate connective tissue
- Helps build new blood vessels
- Releases fascia and muscles with a gentle stretching action
- Releases and soothes nervous system