Cupping is one of those old world therapies that has been receiving a lot of publicity in recent years. It seems like since Michael Phelps was seen with the stereotypical circular bruises everyone has been wanting to know more about it, and athletes have been looking for ways to get cupping therapy, so they too can have that cheeky I just won smile on their face (Read more on Men’s Health). For example, my cousin has been a swimmer his whole life, he swam his way through college at Roger Williams and did very well there. He would on occasion make his way up to my office for manual therapy including cupping and myofascial release. He is a very determined individual and would place very well after our sessions at big swim meets. I eventually got him a cupping set of his own and he became the go to guy doing cupping therapy on his teammates.  

Cupping therapy in its many forms including running cupping, stationary cupping, and fire cupping are integral in treatments performed in our office. Once reluctant patients get over the mental hurdle that the bruises do not hurt they actually become cupping therapy’s biggest advocates. I cannot tell you how many times I throw my whole bag of tricks  (acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, manual therapy, infrared heat, gua sha, cupping) at a case only to find out that the cupping massage therapy is what my patients love best and at times find the most helpful in their case. 

So what is the mechanism behind why cupping therapy works so well?  (Read more on NCBI) Once the cup is applied to the affected muscle the tiny capillaries break, blood cells pour out into the extravascular space dumping platelets and other nutrients into the tissue. Your body is inflamed so it starts an inflammatory process locally to clean up the mess and begin the healing process. During the process Heme Oxygenase-1 is release triggering a whole cascade of beneficial effects, see the above article for more info on this.  

Hopefully your interest is sparked and you are thinking about all the little sore spots you want to have cupped. I can honestly say you can cup most anywhere, but I find I am commonly cupping necks, backs, glutes, and IT Bands. Usually patients with fibromyalgia, motor vehicle accidents, or sports injury including muscle strain or tendonitis see the most benefit. 

Ok, now you are in the know! Chances are if you are working out at a local gym like Champions, or the new Alfond Wellness center, and you see someone with chiseled out delts and wonderful looking calves that looks like they got attacked by an octopus they are probably a patient of mine, and they probably are very disciplined… I mean seriously, do you know how hard it is to get chiseled delts!? 

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