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4 Things You Need To Know About Cupping Therapy

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Cupping massage at Sage Bodywork Seattle

They say cupping is relaxing, relieves pain, reduces muscle tightness, improves mobility, increases circulation, reduces swelling, and even that it's good for skin conditions like acne and dryness.

But it can also leave purple marks, your friend who tried it said it was really intense, and sometimes fire is involved??

So before you you book an appointment, let's press pause, and look at the 4 things you need to know about cupping therapy.

1. “Cupping” means suction massage.

The cups create a vacuum that lifts up your muscles. This is deep tissue massage in the opposite direction (outwards). This decompression has many benefits: it stretches tissue, it creates space between tissues (for those muscles knots that feel stuck together), and it invites fluid in (providing circulation to areas that may have been deprived of it, if they were tight and knotted).

Science of cupping therapy (MRI)

This is why cupping leaves marks - not because it’s bruising the tissue, but because it’s drawing in fluid (see MRI ^).

2. Cupping marks are not bruises.

Cupping doesn't hurt, and the marks aren't bruises

Technically, by definition, they’re hematomas and sometimes petechiae (ask me how to pronounce it, this is one of my favorite words to say aloud)... But the point is that cupping marks don’t hurt when you press on them. They fade quickly, maybe lasting a week at most for a particularly dark mark.

3. “Cupping” is an umbrella term for many different types of cupping.

History of cupping

There are different mechanics to create the vacuum, like using fire to heat the air inside of a glass, clay, or bamboo cup (no, it doesn’t feel hot), or a handheld pump to gradually remove air. There’s even a machine that’s like a literal vacuum cleaner with a hose attachment, and they just massage you with the hose!

I personally use silicone cups, which are well-suited for massaging and gliding techniques. How you get the vacuum is not the be-all end-all. It’s what you do with it that’s important.

4. Traditional Chinese Medicine VS Western style (AKA, Where should I go to try Cupping?)

Cupping has long and wide history across the globe and many cultures.

One of the dominant styles today comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine, where they use intense, stationary fire cups for an extended time to purposefully create marks. Depending on the color of these marks, they learn about the stagnation of Qi in the body.

The style I practice comes more from Western physical therapists and is focusing on muscle and connective tissue, with an awareness of how we’re impacting the circulatory and lymphatic systems.

So your experience with me as a massage therapist will be very different than your experience at the acupuncturist’s.

One more thing...

No matter who you see or what style of cupping they practice, they can adjust the “pressure” of the cupping to be lighter or deeper for you. As with any type of massage, if it hurts, it’s wrong - alert your therapist and ask for less pressure!

OK, now you’re ready to benefit from Cupping!

Try our Deep Heat Flow massage treatment, which elevates Swedish massage by combining it with Cupping and using a premium CBD massage oil.

(Not familiar with cannabis massage? Learn about the benefits of CBD here.)


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