For a technique that has been around since 1,550 BC it has made a tremendous come back! Cupping is not new by any stretch of the word but it is new information for many. After the 2016 Olympics, cupping jumped into the spot light and has been holding strong ever since. When I was in massage school back in 2006 we went over cupping therapy benefits and cupping therapy side effects, but that was one day then I never thought about cupping again.
In 2016 when the Olympic were going on, like most people I can’t wait for that time of year. The first time I saw Michael Phelps with all those cupping marks, I knew it was going to turn into a thing and it did in a big way! Before I new it I had clients asking if I offered cupping massage therapy at my office and I did not at the time. I quickly realized I needed to get on the band wagon of cupping massage because that’s what my clients were asking for.
It was good timing for me anyways since I needed to take some CEU’s for my upcoming license renewal. As always I did my due diligence and I found a wonderful program by a company called ACE Massage Cupping. From there, less then a few months of practicing and obtaining my certification I was rocking and rolling offering my clients cupping massage therapy. I hope at this point you have a pretty good idea of what cupping is but just in case check out my next section to see the different types of cupping technique.
What is cupping massage therapy:
Cupping is the act of creating negative pressure on a specific area on the body by placing a massage cup directly onto the skin, over the muscle belly. My preferred method for cupping is to use silicone cups but you can also use glass or plastic. Once the cups are firmly placed on the body you can leave the cups in a fixed position or you can slowly and rhythmically move them around the muscle belly.
Silicone cupping massage is my preferred way to administer this technique due to their ability to glide over multiple muscles and bony landmarks. Silicone cupping massage is a safe and extremely effect way to provide therapeutic touch to your clients or to administer on yourself.
Illustrated below is an image of my moms knee leading up to her surgery. I wish I would have taken some before and after shots but I did not think of that at the time. My mother was so please with the relief the cups gave her she had me perform cupping massage therapy to not only her knees but her legs and feet. This is a big deal because my mom would never let me work on her because she thinks I work to hard and she doesn’t want to bother me. To which I reply, “shut up lady and get on my table!”
If you take a good look at the picture you will see I used a large cup right on top of the Patella as well as all the surrounding areas and up the leg. My mother suffered a micro tear in her PCL, after a lifetime of physical jobs, one day her knee made a large pop sound and that was all it took. Surgery was the only thing that could fix it at that point.
Cupping played a huge roll with her pain management before and after her surgery. It is my option that cupping massage therapy is what made her swelling decrease as fast as it did after her surgery. The stretches and exercises the physical therapist gave her were painful and difficult for her to do, so I would cup her everyday and we would walk around to increase the circulation.
To use oil or apply dry?
Depending on the techniques you are planning to try, you can apply the massage cups with or without oil. If you are focusing strictly on a trigger point and do not plan to move the cup from that spot then you can work without oil. However, for best results I do recommend you use some form of oil when applying the massage cups. When applying the oil, a little goes a long way. If you are working on just a arm or just a shoulder, a dimes worth is all you need. If you plan to apply multiple cups around the body with the intent to move them around in a rhythmic motion I recommend 10 drops to start with. You can always add more but you don’t want to saturate the area with to much oil. It can get messy and it’s a waste of product.
My preferred oil for cupping specifically is Chinese Herbal Sports Massage Oil – Blue Poppy
I have been using this same bottle for over a year, it smells nice, goes on smooth, and helps lessen the cup “kisses” after a session.
Cupping therapy benefits:
Cupping has many benefits but the number one healing benefit of cupping is circulation! It is so common for my clients to have terrible circulation throughout their bodies and cupping can help with that. Some other benefits include
- stimulating and toning the muscles and skin
- release stored toxins
- elimination of lymphatic congestion
- stimulates blood flow
- increase range of motion
Cupping therapy side effects:
Cupping has little to no side effects other then the cup kisses they leave which may look like a bruise but they are not. Bruises are broken blood vessels under the skin caused by some trauma, a cup kiss is the elevation of old blood and lymph debris that is stuck in the muscle fibers. Cupping draws toxins and waste to the surface of the skin to then be removed with lymphatic drainage techniques. A cup kiss will range from light pink up to dark purple.
If you are using a silicone cupping set for the first time, do not leave the cups on for longer them 5 minutes. The cup kisses will vary from person to person it just depends on the level of congestion in that area.
I left a cup on my Anterior Deltoid for a little more then 5 minutes because I am more acquainted with them and I know my body can handle it. In my experience the color shown in the above picture will last around 3 days. If you decide to leave the cups on longer then 5 minutes please do not exceed 10 minutes! A small disclaimer; cupping is safe for just about anyone except for those that are taking blood thinners or are in their final days of pregnancy.
Silicone cupping massage:
One of the most popular ways to cup is with silicone cups. The reason for this is there ability to easily glide over most surfaces of the body. With glass and plastic cups you will have restrictions that inhibit your ability to seamlessly transition over bony landmarks. Silicone cups are the easiest to get started with and are very affordable!
I have always used silicone cups but I hope to find a plastic set that works for me. I have tried a few kinds but I didn’t care for the feel of them. If you have a plastic set you like, will you please share with me what you are using?
The last option you have when it comes to cupping massage would be glass cups. When using glass cups they require the use of fire in order to apply them. You MUST be a trained professional in order to use fire cups. Since I am licensed as a massage therapist, it is out of my scope of practice to use fire cups. As far as I know, only holistic doctors have the ability to use fire cups.
All three options can be cleaned with a tiny drop of Dawn dish soap and warm water or 1 TSP bleach and 1 cup water, let them air dry preferably and DO NOT PUT THEM IN THE DISHWASHER!
Is cupping massage therapy for you?
I hope this article answered many of your questions related to what cupping massage therapy is, cupping therapy benefits and side effects, and I hope you give the silicone cupping set a try! I have been using the same set for 2 years, I love them, my clients love them; they are simple and they work. Please note, I am a ambassador for the products I have recommended, but these are products I use in my office on my paying clients. The commission I make from theses products help fund my website so I can keep providing you with information about massage and health.
Thank you for visiting my site, if you enjoyed this article please let me know, also if you have any questions I did not address let me know, thanks!!
Since writing this article I invested in a great set of plastic cups, I loved them so much I bought the 25 piece set and the 50 piece set. I keep the 50 piece set at the office for clients and the 25 piece set is at home for personal use. These bad boys have a kick so proceed with caution when trying these guys out. I am so happy I found a set that finally worked for me! Check availability here
This small investment is saving my hands tremendously, I am one happy massage therapist!