When multiple times World swimming champion Michael Phelps showed up for the 2016 Olympics in Rio covered in red circular patches, the world almost went bananas.

Turns out, the patches on his skin were superficial side effects of cupping therapy, his recovery technique of choice.

Cupping therapy has gained a lot of traction since. Here’s what you need to know about cupping and cupping therapy benefits.

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is a type of therapy applied in traditional Chinese medicine to remove stagnation in the body so as to promote the flow of Qi.

‘Chi’ as it pronounced, describes the free flow of vital energy that circulated through the body and the environment around us.

If qi is disturbed or disrupted, there can be stagnations, blockages, or imbalances throughout the body.

Cupping Therapy in Chiropractic Care

A therapeutic cupping session involves warming and placing cups, typically made of glass, on the skin.

Warming the air inside results in a vacuum within the cup, since all the oxygen is used up to support the flame. Thus, when the cup is applied to the skin, your tissue is sucked into the cup.

The effect is an enhanced flow of blood and the loosening of the fascia or connective skin. Those effects are vital towards stimulating the healing process.

Therefore, cupping works in a way similar way to how deep tissue massages help in breaking up scar tissue to reduce pain.

Cups are typically placed on the neck, shoulders, back, as well as any other place experiencing discomfort or pain.

Due to the suction the cups create, cupping can cause temporary soreness and bruising, depending on the amount of suction created by the vacuum as well as the degree of internal blockage.

In fact, traditional Chinese medicine views bruises as favorable outcomes since they reveal the amount of toxins and blockages that were accumulated in the bruised site.

To remove a cup, the edge is lifted to allow air to rush in thus breaking the vacuum.

Types of Cupping

There are different types of cupping techniques available, with each serving a unique purpose, depending on the treatment goals of your chiropractor.

There are also different types of cups, even though the most commonly used are made out of glass. Centuries ago, however, cups used to be made out of animal horns, clay, or bamboo.

Classic Cupping Technique

This was the commonly utilized cupping method in traditional Chinese medicine. It is known as ‘ba guan zi,’ which means fire or dry cupping.

Here, the healer places the cup over an ‘ashi’ point (painful area), which is an acupuncture point along an energy meridian.

The cups are left there for a duration of five to 20 minutes depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. A typical treatment course requires four to six sessions with intervals ranging between three to 10 days.

Sliding Cup Technique

This cupping method is usually applied on large muscle groups – especially the back – in order to alleviate pain and muscle spasms. Massage oil is applied on the skin first to allow the cups to glide over the surface of your skin easily.

Air Cupping

While conventional cupping uses fire to create a vacuum inside the cup, here, a handheld suction pump is used to achieve the same effect.

This alternative is usually used on people with ultrasensitive skins, so they get the benefit of cupping without exposing their skins to heat.

Wet Cupping

This is not for the fainthearted. Here, an acupuncture technique known as bleeding is combined with cupping.

A lancet is used to prick your skin before a cup is applied over that area. This encourages a small amount of blood to flow from the area.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, this helps in the dispelling of toxins from that area. It has been found to be useful in the treatment of inflammatory conditions.

What Cupping Therapy Does

In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is used to encourage the flow of qi and blood in the area being treated. This resolves pain, tension, and swelling. By drawing impurities to the surface, it removes toxins.

When observed from a western physiology perspective, cupping stimulates blood flow to the surface so as to loosen connective fascia or tissue. This stimulates tissue relaxation and intra-cell communication.

Cupping Therapy Benefits

The immediate benefits that cupping therapy brings are muscle relaxation and local pain relief. Over time, cupping therapy boosts your overall health by eliminating the barriers to the flow of qi (healthy energy).

For athletes, cupping helps increase the flow of blood in sore muscles so as to reduce pain and promote rejuvenation. As a result, many athletes today are turning to cupping therapy.

Indeed, every athlete can benefit from sports chiropractic treatments.

Cupping has also been found to promote healing in conditions such as anxiety, depression, varicose veins, high blood pressure, arthritis, and diabetes.

Side Effects of Cupping

Cupping can cause markings on the skin. This is because it brings a rush of blood to the surface, as that is how it promotes healing.

Therefore, cupping might not be the best solution for people with bleeding conditions such as hemophilia, or those that are being treated with anticoagulants.

If you have any of those conditions, it is best that you first consult with your chiropractor as well as a doctor about the pros and cons of cupping treatment.

Additionally, cupping should not be applied on sites with wounds, burns, infection, or active inflammation.

Get Rid of the Pain

It is estimated that more than 1.5 billion people around the world suffer from chronic pain. Cupping therapy benefits include alleviating pain by combating the tension and stress in your body.

It does that by promoting blood flow to remove toxins and loosening your muscles to promote the flow of healthy energy.

The Elite Spine and Health Center provides high quality chiropractic care to residents of Houston and Spring residents.

We customize solutions according to your condition and needs. Schedule an appointment today and get the help you need.

- Elite Spine and Health Center
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