Cupping for Pain Relief


As the name suggests, Cupping Therapy uses a combination of negative pressure and massage movements with the use of a suction device. Cupping therapy is a Negative Pressure technique that is used to achieve a wide range of responses, ranging from extreme relaxation to therapeutic.

A cup is positioned at the area to be treated and, depending on the type of cups being used, a vacuum is created within the cup to draw the underlying tissue into the cup. The suction level can range from light to heavy, and the movements performed by the therapist can be either stimulating or sedating, depending on the needs of the client. The produced vacuum creates a suction effect that increases blood circulation to the local area, relaxes muscle tissue and releases a myriad pain causing factors.

Cupping Therapy softens tight muscles, tones attachments, loosens adhesions and lifts connective tissue by creating suction and negative pressure. This same suction also brings hydration and blood flow to body tissues, and drains excess fluids and toxins by opening lymphatic pathways (a vital part of the immune system). Cupping therapy is very versatile and can be modified to achieve a variety of techniques ranging from subtle lymphatic drainage to deep tissue release.

Why Does Cupping Leave Marks?

Cupping Therapy Massage Seattle

A common misinterpretation of cupping concerns the discoloration that can occur during treatment. Often when pathologic factors and stagnant fluids (toxins, blood and lymph) are dredged up during treatment, discoloration will appear on the skin. This is the therapeutically desired effect – the more this is visible, the greater the level of stagnation and toxicity that has been removed. “Bruising” is caused by impact trauma with breakage of capillaries and reactionary rush of fluids to the damaged area from the tissue compression/injury, and there is no compression in properly employed suction cup therapy, so bruising should not occur. Although it is quite common during stationary Cupping (left static for 5 – 20 minutes) to achieve dramatic marks or discolorations, less aggressive action while moving the cups can minimize the intensity and duration of these marks, and any discoloration should fade over a few days.

As treatments accumulate and the cause of stagnation and buildup has been drained (usually by the 3rd or 4th treatment) no discoloration is likely to occur at all, even though each time the cupping may have been focused on the same area for the same duration and with the same amount of negative pressure. This is the result of having internal unwanted toxins systematically purged. This is helpful in taking pressure off of joints and organs in the body by pulling this fluid and “creating space” for the tissue.

Cupping Marks & Post Treatment Care

When circulation is sluggish or compromised in an injured or diseased area of the body, the cells receive insufficient oxygen, and there can be a local build up of waste products. The deposits dissipate from a few hours up to several weeks, depending on the amount of stagnation and the patient’s post treatment activities.

Usually, the practitioner will see the greatest amount of deposits being drawn to the surface in the first few treatments – this is a good thing.  The deposits will lessen in intensity as the deeper issues are resolved and the stagnations and toxins have been dredged up and flushed out via the body’s own circulatory systems and expulsion from the pores. Sweating is a great after treatment follow up to help get rid of the garbage you’ve released.  Although the marks look painful, they are not. Patients usually feel an immediate sense of relief.

For four to six hours following a treatment you should avoid any strenuous activity, cold weather and unpleasantly hot environments. Cupping opens the pores and because of this the absorption of liniments, analgesics, plant hydrosols or essential oils will be aided. Drinking more water than is typically necessary following treatment is helpful for oxygenating cleansed tissues.

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