You have probably seen those big round bruises on people’s backs before right? Yes that’s the result of cupping therapy. When I first heard about it or saw it on an athlete on television I started digging deeper to find out what it is all about. Let’s start with the explanation of the therapy.
“Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts suction cups on your skin.”
Cups can be made out of different material such as glass, bamboo or silicone. My physiotherapist works with glass cups with a suction device on top and I personally am a huge fan of them. I also bought the silicone and plastic suction cups but these are for a different purpose which I’ll talk about in a bit.
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO CUPPING THERAPY?
People use this therapy for many purposes including to reduce pain, inflammation, increase blood flow or even as a relaxation method. The stretching and contraction of the skin increases blood flow in the targeted area which is the body’s natural way of healing. According to doctors like Houman Danesh, M.D., “Increased blood flow can be beneficial to jumpstart or restart a blunted healing response.”
This is backed up by Reid Blackwelder, M.D. who confirms that the suction fakes an “inflammation” in the area which then forces the body to send more antibodies to the area to try and heal it.
I have a story that I’d like to share about cupping and treating an inflammation in my elbow. A while ago I had a golfer’s elbow which is an irritating pain on the inside of your elbow when your hand is supinated. I tried multiple therapies to reduce the pain without any luck. I also took 2 weeks off from the gym which was the absolute horror for me. I’m a fitness junkie. Not going to the gym is like sleeping with open eyes. Anyways I digress. The last thing I tried was cupping. At first it was really painful which was a good sign because cupping usually doesn’t hurt. I know that sounds weird but the pain showed me that there is an inflammation which needs to be treated. We started slowly with little to no pressure (suction) which increased the blood flow in my elbow. After about a week of treatment I felt a great relief which is when we increased the pressure to keep the healing process active. After another 2 weeks of cupping the pain was almost gone. I’m only sharing this because I think it’s always good to know that someone who’s writing about a topic has more experience with it than just a book.
Alright let’s move on.
ARE THERE ANY RISKS?
There are almost no risks to cupping when performed correctly. Don’t let anybody just put suction cups on your body though. Make sure your therapist is an experienced and educated professional for cupping therapy. The downside / risk is that your body will be bruised up after the treatment. You might feel a slight pain in the bruised areas but again when performed correctly it’s more like a big hickey.
STUDIES THAT PROVE IT WORKS?
Now we arrived at the part where it gets tough. There isn’t enough evidence / studies that have proven that cupping therapy actually works. Some claim it is only a placebo effect but other studies acknowledge the therapy as an effective way to reduce pain and elevate your health.
One study for example claims that cupping helps to stimulate the chemical breakdown of toxins in your muscles that delay the healing process. Additionally as previously mentioned it also helps alleviate inflammation. Well I’m totally on the same page with this theory.
We cannot ignore other studies though that claim that cupping doesn’t bring any health benefits to a patient and is merely a placebo effect. I see how for some people it appears to be mumbo jumbo but when you understand the bodies capabilities to heal itself I think there’s no doubt that cupping works. But again this is my personal opinion because it has worked for me before and I will continue to work with it to prevent any injuries.
DON’T DO IT
You shouldn’t try cupping if you have any kind of bleeding disorder! If you know you bruise easily please be cautious and seek advice from a professional in your area.
WHICH CUPS ARE THE BEST?
The best cupping instruments I’ve used to relief pain, reduce inflammation and help with the bodies healing process are these.
There are a bunch of different cupping sets available online but the reason I like this one is that it’s made out of plastic which is safer to use when you’re by yourself and you want to put it on your own back. If they fall down, no problem. With glass that’s a different story.
As mentioned before I also have silicone cups which serve a different purpose. These were my first cups I purchased to get more into cupping. The huge benefit of these is that you can use these as a massage device and it feels amazing. You don’t have to be a professional therapist either to do it on your partner. Oil up your partner’s back, use one of the silicon suction cups, squeeze it, place it on your partner’s back and let go. Now you have a small suction which allows you to move the cup up and down with no discomfort to your partner. The increased blood flow will help you relax and reduce stress.
The downside is that you are limited with the intensity of the suction. With glass or plastic you can “pump” out more air which increases the suction and therefore the pressure that you feel on your skin. If you’re using cupping for therapeutic reasons I’d suggest contacting a trusted therapist instead of experimenting on yourself.
There are almost no risks associated with cupping which makes it fairly safe to try. I personally had a great experience with a speedy recovery from an injury which made me a huge fan of cupping.