As expected, because so widely publicized by Michael Phelps this week, I have been getting numerous questions regarding cupping: what is it? when do you use it? does it hurt? should I do it?
Cupping is not a new fad! Medical texts documenting cupping have been dated all the way back to 300 A.D. Cupping entails using a small glass or plastic cup to create suction. When placed on various places on the body, the vacuum in the cup pulls the skin and tissue upwards and draws blood to the surface. This causes the oft seen “circle of bruising." It is typically combined with acupuncture, as studies have shown acupuncture increases cupping’s effectiveness. The bruising breaks up what we call blood stagnation or pain, as well as move Qi, or energy. In plain terms it means that cupping loosens up the muscle tissue and promotes blood flow. It follows the lines on the acupuncture channels and we can even glide the cups gently along the muscle tissue to give further relief. The body feels massaged without actually having to do massage!
Cupping can be used for back and neck pain, shoulder pain, tight hamstrings and buttocks, poor circulation, fevers and aches, as well as bronchitis and upper respiratory infection by clearing up congestion and strengthening the lungs. Cupping is also a way of giving deep tissue therapy without the side affect of soreness!