Cupping and It’s Benefits
By Meghann La Marca, DPT
AZOPT Buckeye Physical Therapist

Cupping, also known as Myofascial Decompression, is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China in 241 AD. However, it became more mainstream following the 2016 Summer Olympics. You may remember seeing circular marks all over Michael Phelps’ back. This gave rise to cupping’s popularity throughout physical therapy.

Cupping therapy is an ancient medical treatment that relies upon creating a local suction to mobilize soft tissues, blood and lymph flow in order to promote healing. Dry cupping is used specifically in physical therapy as a form of soft tissue mobilization.  Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.

Cupping is not used by itself as a treatment. It is just one method which may be used by physical therapists in the overall rehab of musculoskeletal conditions. Ultimately, the goal is improved mobility, stability, and movement patterns of your body.

Cupping is relatively straightforward and very safe. A mild suction is created using a cup and a pump on the selected treatment area and left in place for a several minutes. The mild suction pulls up the tissue in an affected area. Multiple cups may be used at the same time depending on the size of the area to be treated. The cup may also be gently moved to help facilitate skin and other soft tissue tightness release (cupping massage).

Cupping is not performed on people who have fragile or damaged skin and it is not performed during pregnancy. And finally, it is not used in patients with active cancer.

If you are interested in cupping therapy, please ask your physical therapist to see if this is the right treatment for your pain.