In 2016, Michael Phelps surprised the world by diving into the Olympic pool sporting almost a dozen purple dots across his back and shoulders. As many questioned what the spots could possibly mean, the cupping trend took hold. However, by no means is cupping therapy a new treatment.
One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, Ebers Papyrus, actually describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping as far back as 1,550 B.C. So, what is this treatment, and should you try it?
What is Cupping Therapy?
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine that took root with ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. During cupping therapy, a therapist places specialized cups on the skin for several minutes to create suction. Cupping has many benefits, including alleviating pain and inflammation, relaxing tense muscles, aiding in blood flow and relaxation, and relieving chronic pain such as fatigue, migraines, and arthritis.
The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping loosens muscles and encourages blood flow, lessening swelling or tension occurring in soft tissue. However, it is also incredibly detoxifying. While your lymphatic system naturally filters toxins to effectively remove them from the body, oftentimes fat-soluble toxins from your environment, diet, and chemical additives remain trapped in the tissue.
Cupping allows for the stretching and opening of soft tissue, creating space for toxins to drain from the cells. In this way, cupping enhances the body’s natural detoxification process to manually manipulate the soft tissue so that toxins can be moved from your fat cells and into the naturally cleansing lymphatic system.
How Does Cupping Therapy Work?
Cupping can be performed in a variety of ways. Cups can be made of glass, bamboo, stoneware, or silicone. Prior to treatment, your therapist will apply an oil or similarly textured substance to the area that will be treated. This is to aid the motion of the cup.
Stagnant or Dynamic Cupping
Traditionally, your therapist would place a flammable substance such as alcohol, paper, or herbs in the cup and set it on fire. As the fire extinguished, he would place the cup upside down on your skin. As the air inside the cup cooled, it would create a vacuum. Today, modern cupping tends to use a rubber pump as opposed to fire to create the vacuum. This vacuum causes the skin underneath the cup to rise and redden as the blood cells expand. The cup is then left on the skin for three to ten minutes. This is referred to as stagnant cupping.
Dynamic cupping follows a similar process, except as opposed to leaving the cup on one area of the skin, the therapist creates suction within the cup and then continuously moves it across the back. This would be your preferred choice if the Michael Phelps spots leave you weary – dynamic cupping will slightly redden the skin during treatment but will not leave red rings like stagnant cupping will.
Wet or Dry Cupping
Aside from stagnant or dynamic cupping, there is another variety of cupping: wet or dry. Dry cupping follows the previously mentioned process, with the cup remaining on the skin, either moving or suctioned to one spot.
With wet cupping, your therapist will begin by creating a mild suction, leaving the cup in one place for roughly three minutes. Next, the therapist will move the cup and use a small scalpel to create small, minor cuts in the skin. Lastly, he or she will replace the cup over the area of the incision to draw out a small quantity of blood.
The wet cupping process can also be completed using acupuncture needles. The goal here is very simple, and isn’t nearly as intimidating as it sounds. The minor incisions made by the scalpel or acupuncture needle activate the body’s natural self-healing process, rushing nutrient-rich blood to the area. This effectively and safely reduces inflammation and promotes healing in the area, as well as helps to combat toxins.
Who Can Benefit from Cupping Therapy?
Cupping therapy can be beneficial for just about everyone. The pressure provided by cupping can effectively relieve pain that accompanies conditions such as:
- Spondylosis, or wear and tear on the spinal discs
- Anxiety and depression
- Muscle tension or fatigue
Plus, cupping can help remove toxins present within the body. Even abiding by a healthy lifestyle can still result in toxins, whether they be from the environment or from diet. Cupping helps to remove these toxins and catalyze your body’s natural detoxification process, helping to regulate the body’s nervous and digestive systems.
Likewise, those currently…
- Physically active in the gym or with sports
- Recovering from an injury
- Living an active lifestyle
- Operating at a high-intensity job
…can benefit from cupping. The increase of blood flow encouraged by cupping can not only promote healing, but also speed the recovery process.
What Are the Risks of Cupping Therapy?
Cupping therapy holds little to no risks. However, if you’re currently taking blood thinners or have trouble with bleeding, clotting, or an open wound, the suction-effect of cupping would not be recommended. Likewise, avoid cupping on areas of delicate skin.
As a general rule, cancer patients should avoid cupping therapy as well. As cupping opens the muscles to promote cell movement, you do not want to stimulate the movement of cancer cells from one area to another. Instead, those currently undergoing cancer treatment should look into less invasive therapies, such as cryotherapy or acupuncture.
Get Back to Feeling Your Best
While cupping therapy might not exactly win you the gold, it might have you feeling like an Olympian. From detoxifying to alleviating pain and promoting healing, cupping therapy can get you back to feeling your best. Contact ChiroCare of Florida today to make an appointment for cupping therapy at an office near you.
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