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Cupping: What is it & how does it work

Posted Dec 14th, 2018

Cupping: What is it & how does it work

Cupping may seem new, since it is finally making its way into mainstream media, noted with media coverage of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics (Michael Phelps’ circular bruises). However, its first recorded practice was in 1,550 B.C.

What is it?

Cupping therapy is an ancient form of medicine (European, Middle Eastern, and Asian roots), where the therapist places cups (typically silicone, plastic, or glass) in particular areas on the skin, often on acupuncture/acupressure points, to create suction (tissue lifting) for a few minutes.

There are two common styles of cupping, wet or dry.  In Canada, most cupping-trained physiotherapists use dry cupping, whether static (leave cups in place over a point) or dynamic (movement of cups while under suction).  It is a safe and beneficial technique.   It can be one of the “tools” your physiotherapist may suggest as part of your individualized treatment plan and recovery.

How can this help?

As the air cools inside the cup it creates suction, whereas the skin rises and is proposed to increase blood flow, which can help:

  • Reduce pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase blood flow
  • Decrease muscle tension
  •  Increase relaxation

Side Effects

Common (less severe):

  • Possible bruising
  • Mild discomfort at treatment area
  • Muscle soreness or tingling to the treatment area

Note: the bruising common to cupping can range in colour tones from light pink to dark purple; and each individual’s recovery time varies (expected is 2-4 days for the colour to disappear).

Still curious?   Have a repetitive strain injury or chronic/long lasting nagging injury?  Contact us today to try cupping as part of your physiotherapy treatment plan to full recovery and return to function & 100%!


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