Updated: May 31, 2021
Used for centuries by acupuncturists and natural healers in Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures, cupping has become a more popular tool in the US among Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists. Maybe you have seen photos on social media of athletes or friends with their distinctive cupping marks and thought "well I guess they lost a fight with an octopus". The truth is that Cupping Therapy can improve blood flow, remove toxins, reduce swelling, and improve range of motion- and no sea creatures are involved ;) I personally find immense relief from my shoulder and neck tension using the Cups - and the relief lasts 7-10 days after just one session.
In a traditional massage, we are using 'positive pressure' to affect change in the body. By contrast, we create a negative pressure as the Cups apply suction, lifting the skin and tissue. This "pulls" blood into the area to supply the muscle and fascia cells with nutrients and oxygen and carry away toxins that were stagnant within the tissue. Traditionally, suction is created by using fire under a glass Cup. At Terra Sana, we use silicone Cups that don't require fire to create that negative pressure.
Cupping can be really useful technique for folks looking to recover from an injury, feel better after an illness, and improve range of motion. The sensation is unique and I really enjoy using the Cups as a tool to identify sources of tension and pinpoint trouble spots that may not have been as evident using traditional Deep Tissue Massage techniques.
The marks left behind from Cupping can look intense and cause some people to worry that Cupping hurts. In reality, it is not painful at all- full of sensation, yes- but not painful. In fact, depending on what you need and how the Cups are applied, the therapist can create a very relaxing massage.
Cupping marks are not bruises which are typically the result of blunt trauma to an area of the body resulting in damage to blood vessels underneath the skin. Cupping marks, on the other hand, are the result of a healing stimulus to the body and different colors indicate different responses:
Marks that are black, deep purple or blue indicate blood stagnation in the area. This means that an injury or illness has resided in the area for a long time and the body has yet to full clear the stagnation. Cupping will allow the body to deal with the stagnation more effectively and promote health to the area.
A pale or white mark indicates that an area has a lack of function and probably isn’t performing properly. Using cupping techniques, a therapist can help restore better function to the area.
Cupping that leaves a bright fresh red color indicate a recent injury the area. Cupping will help the recent injury to heal fully.
The systemic cleansing effects will draw waste and dead debris out of your body so it's important to be sure you are well hydrated before and after your session to aid in elimination of those toxins released into the bloodstream.
If you have personal experiences with cupping that you would like to share, please comment below. We'd love to hear your thoughts!