What is cupping?
Cupping therapy involves creating a vacuum inside a container which is then attached to various parts of the body. This vacuum creates a drawing effect on the skin, muscles and tissues beneath which may result in some discolouration of the skin.
Cupping therapy is now a tried and tested treatment method and is commonly utilised by qualified healthcare professionals.
Cupping has come a long way since it first originated in terms of hygiene and improved safety standards. At Evolution Medical Care, cupping techniques never involve skin penetration or bleeding as was practised in the past; simply because there is no justification, no significant added benefit from skin penetration/bleeding.
Additionally, with the advance of science, there is an increasing understanding of:
- How cupping works
- What conditions can be treated with cupping
How cupping works
Cupping involves applying localised vacuum pressure to:
Powerfully stretch connective tissue including skin, muscles and fascia to drastically improve circulation that creates increased levels of blood locally for some time.
- Stretching connective tissue
When a cup is applied to skin with vacuum, centrally localised vacuum pressure produces compression of the skin at the rim of the cup and traction of the skin and underlying tissue within the cup. The depth of traction of the skin, underlying fat and muscle tissue is dependent on the amount of vacuum pressure inside the cup and also the size of the container used.
The lowered pressure within the cup causes a pressure differential between the skin surface and underlying blood vessels, creating an almost immediate visible vasodilation of the superficial capillaries producing pink and even reddened skin. Vascular perfusion, aka blood circulation, has been shown to increase as much as 5 times normal levels as a result of localised cupping therapy. Increased blood flow in muscle tissue may be one of the mechanisms cupping affects localised pain symptoms.
The result of prolonged suction is increased blood levels within the local tissues, which is similar to a bruise but without tissue damage as a result of trauma.
These increased blood levels are present between 1-4cm deep inside the body and resolve slowly over many days much like bruises.
Physiology of Cupping
When cupping therapy is applied, there are immediate effects, including stretching connective tissue and improving circulation.
Beyond this, there is a series of physiological changes that take place which may be used to explain how cupping therapy can act on the body both locally and systemically to treat various health complaints. The physiology of cupping is summarised as follows:
- Negative pressure on skin causes localised accumulation of red blood cells in tissues aka bruising.
- Bruising stimulates macrophages (the immune system) to engulf and digest red blood cells and stimulates them to produce an enzyme called Heme Oxygenase-1 to metabolise the red blood cell.
- The red blood cell is broken down into compounds Biliverdin, Bilirubin, Carbon Monoxide and Iron.
- These compounds, directly and indirectly, have significant health regulating effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and neuromodulatory effects.
Is cupping safe?
Cupping is considered a safe practice, but it’s essential to find a well-trained practitioner who is qualified and follows safe treatment guidelines.
Make sure to do your research and find an experienced practitioner who is well-trained in using cupping tools, which will ensure you get the most benefits from your session and aren’t at risk of injury.
Side effects of Cupping
Besides the visible dark circular bruises they create, other potential side effects include mild discomfort or burns. However, a trained health professional will avoid these through effective technique.
When should Cupping be avoided?
Cupping should be avoided where there are skin conditions such as infection, eczema, ulcer or hypersensitivity.
It’s also not recommended for pregnant women since not enough research has been done to show it’s safe.
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for skin discolouration to develop after cupping, which can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks and this may interfere with a person with scheduled photoshoots etc.
For people with bleeding disorders or who are prone to bruising, cupping should be avoided. It can cause minor and temporary bruising in some people, but this can become problematic for those who don’t heal well from bruises.
Does Cupping therapy work?
Currently, there is limited research-based information as to what cupping therapy can improve.
Currently, there is limited information, and there is more being developed. Cupping therapy has been used for thousands of years throughout various cultures to improve health complaints.
How long do cupping bruises last?
Bruises from cupping may last anywhere from 1-2 days up to a month.
What are the benefits of cupping?
Cupping therapy benefits include:
- Improved circulation
- Muscle relaxation
- Improved range of motion
- Stress reduction
- Pain relief
How long do the effects of cupping last?
The effects of cupping will be first noticed immediately-pain relief, relaxation and often localised bruising. Improvement in symptoms is highly variable-sometimes symptoms may be entirely resolved after a single session, and other times it may require ongoing treatment.
From a physiological perspective, the stimulation of Heme Oxygenase-1 which is responsible for a cascade of healing effects throughout the body as a result of cupping therapy typically peaks at 36 hours and remains above normal levels throughout the body even up to 5 days after treatment!
Is there any science behind Cupping?
Yes, when cupping therapy is applied, there are immediate effects including stretching connective tissue and improving circulation, which activates the Heme Oxygenase-1 system to stimulate regulating effects including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and neuromodulatory effects.
Why should I try cupping?
Have you been experiencing aches and pains or other types of health complaints? Cupping is a powerful therapy to treat both local health complaints and also regulate a wide range of illnesses.
What conditions are aided by cupping?
Cupping therapy is useful for a wide range of musculoskeletal complaints and other conditions too. It can easily be incorporated with other treatments such as Acupuncture and Remedial Massage to improve outcomes.
Cupping is an excellent therapy for individuals with:
- Pain, tension and knots in muscle tissue.
- Sporting injuries, such as corked calves or thighs.
- The common cold & lower respiratory conditions.
- Arthritis and stroke symptoms.
- Chronic pain and muscular tension caused by stress.