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Author: Richard Symister

Bodywork: The Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Those bizarre, space alien probe hickeys on Michael Phelps’s back during the 2016 Olympics definitely caught everyone’s attention and put this ancient modality of cupping therapy on the front pages of numerous famous publications. But now, cupping therapy marks are a common sight, from tennis to climbing to MMA.

So why have fit folks and athletes continued to use cupping therapy? Because cupping therapy works! 

What is cupping therapy?

Cupping, from ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures, has been around since 1,550 B.C and was originally used for treating various ailments such as menstrual imbalances, weakened appetite, fever, vertigo, and pain. 

Here are a few of our current sports and fitness applications for cupping therapy:

  1. Delayed onset muscle soreness (D.O.M.S.)
  2. Swelling and inflammation
  3. Flexibility
  4. Training recovery
  5. Pre-training/competition prep
  6. Muscle tension, cramps, and spasms
  7. Headaches

So how does cupping therapy work?

I love this analogy of a stack of buckwheat pancakes and syrup. When I have pancakes, I like my syrup lightly spread across each pancake, not just on top. However, there is little room for the syrup to travel in between each pancake because each pancake is weighed down and movement is restricted. Think of the pancakes as your “layers” of skin, muscle, and fascia (a thin, web-like network casing of connective tissue). The syrup is fluid —  blood, water, and lymph. Now picture your “layers” collapsing upon these fluid highways, restricting blood flow to your muscles. The results are muscle tension, cramping, spasms, fatigue, pain, loss of motion, and muscle performance. 

At MovEvolution, we use cupping therapy in 2 ways to help you heal, move, and evolve: 

  1.  We rely on cupping therapy as a diagnostic tool. We look and feel what is going on between your tissue “layers”. Does the skin glide and lift well? Does your skin return quickly to its original color or is it slow, or delayed pointing to poor or stagnant circulation. (Oh, and about those circular markings or hickeys post-treatment? These cupping marks are a discoloration of the skin due to broken blood vessels just beneath the skin, much like a bruise. This indicates the level of blood stagnation The color and severity of the marks reflect the level of stagnation in that area.)
  2. We also use cupping therapy as a treatment tool, to get that lift and glide of tissue layers (pancakes), improving blood flow (syrup) between those layers with greater ease. Overall, we are helping to decrease circulatory stagnation and increase tissue mobility.

Is cupping therapy for you?

Almost anyone can benefit from cupping therapy, from the weekend warrior to the multisport athlete, although there are some precautions and contraindications your therapist should explain prior to cupping therapy application. 

The beneficial effects of cupping therapy are usually immediate. See our video of Nana touching his toes for the first time in quite a long time. 

What’s also great about cupping therapy is, once trained in its use, a basic cupping set is quite inexpensive, simple, and safe to use.

Check out our BODYWORK page and see what you could use to help you heal, move and evolve. In combination with other modalities, cupping therapy is an excellent modality to add to your training toolbox. 

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Heal. Move. CUP. Evolve. 

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