Cupping may be trending now, but it’s nothing new. After all, the modern breast pump was inspired by the same cupping therapy espoused by Hippocrates, approved by the prophet Muhammed, and whose roots tunnel back 3,000 years into the past to ancient China. The enduring use of cupping therapy throughout the ages and across the globe speaks to its timeless efficacy.
Utilizing cups can be a new or updated approach for you to relieve pain, promote fascial health, and reduce stagnation in the body for your clients—and for yourself! In your sessions, cups can give your hands a respite from repetitive use. And in your own self-care at home, cups can relieve tension from overuse in your forearms and shoulders, relieve low-back stiffness from standing all day, and replenish circulation from your head to your toes after a day of sharing, connecting, and giving. Even after a brief period of practice and exploration, we were amazed at how quickly we felt the benefits of cupping. We are excited about sharing an effective new modality with our clients and feeling the refreshment of our own energy system that comes from regularly using cups on ourselves.
Simply defined, cupping therapy utilizes negative pressure (akin to a vacuum suction) to increase the circulation of blood and qi. As bodyworkers, we are more familiar with using positive pressure, like deep-tissue compression. The negative pressure created by the suction may be used with a sliding approach, or the cups may be placed in stationary locations in one or more areas of the body. Studies demonstrate that cupping impacts blood vessels up to four inches deep to the skin, making this a great modality to assist in encouraging lymph flow and promoting the movement of qi.
One of the most visible side effects of cupping are the round pink-to-red-to-purplish blemishes left on the body from stationary cups or the pinkish-red patches temporarily etched on the skin from sliding cups. This is not bruising. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), these circular blemishes are a result of stagnation or sha (pronounced saw) as blood moves from deeper to more superficial areas of the body where it may be more easily recirculated. Sha or stagnation may be viewed through a physical lens—such as poor circulation, lymphatic congestion, digestive sluggishness, edema, excess mucus, areas of ischemia, bound fascia, lack of mobility, etc. Stagnation may also be viewed through an energetic lens: procrastination, rumination, fatigue, depression, etc. An ecchymosis or sha mark generally takes 3–5 days to fade away, a clear distinction from a bruise. And over time and regular use, these marks (and therefore stagnation) will no longer appear. If you dislike the marks, you don’t have to have them—you can leave cups on for shorter amounts of time and use less intense suction/negative pressure.
Whenever we intentionally change our routine, we stretch beyond the habits of our mind and body, and activate new possibilities and open ourselves to new experiences of our self and others. Cupping is offering new experiences of refreshment to our physical, mental, and emotional systems that we haven’t experienced from any other modality. We invite you too, to feel the benefits. Decide for yourself if this is a modality you want more of and want to share with your clients. We have created a video designed to give you an introduction to cupping on yourself. Enjoy and may the Qi be with you.
Read more in Massage&Bodywork Magazine May/June issue