A Big Cup of Therapy: Everything You Need to Know About Cupping Therapy

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Cupping therapy has been endorsed by countless celebrities, ranging from historic Olympian Michael Phelps to superstar Kim Kardashian. It’s likely you may have even seen one of their celebrity photos displaying the therapy’s post-session distinctive marks.

With ancient Chinese and Egyptian roots, it’s a practice that’s at least several thousand years old.

And it’s as popular as ever.

But you might be asking, what is cupping therapy? Are there cupping therapy side effects? 

And if Michael Phelps and Justin Bieber both swear by it, what are its benefits?

To answer these questions, we’ve composed a comprehensive overview of cupping therapy to guide you through its treatment, benefits, and safety.

If you’re interested in better understanding what the buzz is all about, or just want to see which of its treatment options could improve your life, then read on!

You’ll be glad you did.

1. So What is Cupping Therapy Anyway?

Cupping therapy is sometimes thought of as a type of deep tissue massage, which has several notable benefits.

It may be an ancient therapy, but the process of cupping therapy is today significantly different than its historic roots.

Traditionally, a source of heat would create suction within hollow animal horns. These would be placed on the patient’s back, and the suction would pull the tissue upwards.

Although no kneading of the tissue is involved, it’s easy to glean how it’s similar to a massage.

As a child, you may have stuck suction darts to your skin when you weren’t launching them at windows, walls, or your siblings. Cupping therapy is a similar experience.

Today this practice has been extensively modernized. Small glass cups are used in place of the traditional animal horns. Also popular are plastic cups that, along with a rubber hose, are able to create suction without the need for a heat source, such as a match.

These cups vary in size from one to three inches.

But how does cupping therapy actually work?

Once attached to the skin, the cups remain for a short period of anywhere from three to ten minutes. During this time, the raised tissue expands and draws blood to the nearby areas.

This increased blood flow is the ultimate goal of cupping therapy. What’s so important about improved blood flow?

We’ll get to that in just a minute.

When the suction period has concluded and the cups are removed, the patient will be left with purple splotches around the treated area.

While this treated tissue may appear unsightly — you’ve probably seen some in the news — the bruising lasts a maximum of two weeks.

Wet Cupping Therapy

We’ve just described what’s known as “dry” cupping therapy, but there’s also a “wet” version.

Wet cupping therapy differs only slightly. The difference is that small incisions are made to the skin before cupping, so more blood is drawn to the treated areas.

With this version, after the short attachment period, the areas may also be covered in ointment and bandaged, to minimize the risk of infection.

2. The Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Why are so many people cupping anyway? 

Because of the increased blood flowing to the treated areas, it can help reduce irritation and relax muscles after a workout.

Now it’s easy to guess why Michael Phelps takes advantage of cupping therapy.

But increased blood flow is only one benefit of undergoing this safe and easy treatment.

A team of researchers identified a comprehensive collection of studies and found that cupping therapy helped treat shingles, facial paralysis, and also acne when used with other treatments.

What if you don’t have one of these specific conditions?

What about healthy individuals who aren’t looking for serious post-workout relief?

Cupping therapy also has an additional, universal benefit that can aid nearly every person on the planet.

According to another study, the increased blood flow that results from cupping therapy reduced the intensity of chronic pain in the neck and shoulder.

Stress is an unavoidable product of our busy modern lives. Somehow, not everyone is aware that stress is also the cause of serious symptoms like chronic pain.

If you are experiencing bouts of stress and anxiety and the chronic pain that comes with it, cupping therapy may be an excellent treatment for pain relief.

3. Is Cupping Therapy Dangerous?

It’s an absolutely risk-free treatment. While some people are afraid of alternative medicine or doubt its effectiveness, cupping therapy has a long and established reputation that goes back thousands of years.

The downsides of the therapy are absolutely minor.

While the cups are being applied, the patient will likely feel some discomfort from their skin rising. Additionally, once the cups are removed, bruises are likely to appear.

These may cause soreness for the treated area, which will dissipate over the next few days.

The only risk for dry cupping therapy is this short-lived discomfort. Considering the benefits of the procedure, why not give it a try?

Due to the use of small incisions during wet cupping therapy, this version carries a minuscule infection risk.

But cupping therapy isn’t for everyone.

Pregnant women, those who are anemic or on blood thinners, or those with open wounds should not undergo cupping therapy due to the manipulation of the body’s blood flow.

Still Need More?

We hope we dismissed some common misconceptions and concerns about cupping therapy. It’s a completely safe procedure with scientifically-supported benefits.

With cupping therapy treatment this fast and easy, there’s nothing to lose. Why not schedule an appointment and see why it’s become such a popular treatment option for countless people.

Still not convinced? We have more to say. Explore our blog if you want to learn more about cupping therapy.

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