What is Massage Cupping?
Massage cupping is a modern adaptation of the ancient Chinese art of cupping therapy. Large glass cups are used on the back and legs as a unique way of applying myofascial techniques and deep tissue massage. Cupping has a sedating effect on the nervous system, and many people find it profoundly relaxing. Contracted, tense and painful muscle tissue will soften quickly with just a few minutes of massage cupping. Cupping is often used with another therapy, such as therapeutic massage.
How does cupping work?
Traditional cupping uses glass. To create a vacuum, a cotton ball is soaked in alcohol, then ignited and inserted into the cup, which will evacuate some air. The cotton ball is withdrawn and the cup is quickly placed on the skin. Modern cupping techniques use glass, plastic or rubber cups attached to a suction device, or a compressible rubber bulb. Once suction is created, the practitioner slides the cup along a large body surface such as the back or thigh until softening of the muscle and connective tissue is observed. Pure jojoba oil is used to help the cups glide smoothly. This technique is known as massage cupping or “moving cups.” Massage cupping may also involve some stationary cup placements to loosen areas of stubborn muscle tension or connective tissue.
Your acupuncturist may use stationary cups, sliding cups or other techniques such as combining the use of acupuncture needles, moxa, or herbal preparations for treatment of other conditions not addressed with massage cupping.*
Is cupping painful? Will it leave marks?
Cupping is generally not painful. Some people who suffer from fibromyalgia or other chronic muscular disorders may feel minimal discomfort and should mention it immediately so adjustments can be made. Many people report that muscle tension and tenderness continues to improve for many hours after the session is completed.
In areas of tissue dysfunction, this technique may occasionally leave a temporary mark, called “sha.” Sha resembles a bruise but is not painful. Traditional Chinese Medicine regards the appearance of sha as an indication that toxins and stagnation are being pulled to the surface of the body, restoring healthy qi and blood flow below. The photo is an example of cupping marks from a static placement. Moving cups generally leave fewer marks.
Why should I try Massage Cupping?
Sometimes areas of tension or injury are simply too tense or tender to treat with certain therapeutic methods such as deep tissue massage, compression or multi-directional friction. Massage cupping is a gentle, non-invasive way to soften broad areas of tension so that more specific massage techniques can be comfortably applied. Massage cupping is especially effective for tightness of the iliotibial (IT) band, and chronic pain, tightness, and spasm in the middle to lower back.
If you wish to add cupping to your session, please request this service in advance to allow time to prepare the area and materials. Massage cupping is also available as a 30 minute session, where cups will be applied to your back and shoulders. A 30 minute session may also include some massage to your back and shoulders.
*Note: Massage cupping is only used for dysfunction of the muscles and connective tissue. It is not used on someone suffering from illness or fever, on areas with thin skin (hands, feet, forearms, inner thighs or chest), or on the abdomen. It is contra-indicated for skin conditions, open wounds, and on the back during pregnancy. Cupping, as used by your acupuncturist, is a different type of session, and may or may not involve treatment of some of the above mentioned areas or conditions.