You may have noticed those dark circles on the backs of olympic swimmers on tv, or on people working out at the gym, or really anywhere these days. Those marks are from cupping!
So, what is cupping anyway?
Cupping is a form of holistic bodywork that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine. In a massage practice today, cups are typically used to help relieve muscular and fascial tension and increase blood and lymph flow through your muscle tissue. The suction from the cups pull the muscle tissue apart, creating more room for blood and lymph to move through the tissue. This process also draws stagnant blood from the muscle tissue, allowing the lymphatic system to process it out of the body. This process will also help remove lactic acid and other toxins from the tissue, helping to decrease pain and allow the tissue to heal faster.
In our cupping integrated massage sessions, cups are used mixed in with your usual therapeutic bodywork. Your therapist will work an area and then might glide a few cups around the area (this is called dynamic cupping) and then perhaps place some static cups on any especially tight areas and let them rest there for anywhere from two to ten minutes while they move on with the massage.
This allows for any tight areas to get a little more attention while your therapist moves on with the session.
What's up with the dark circles?
Many people see these dark circles and automatically think of bruising. The coloring of the marks is actually just the stagnant blood being released back out of the tissue, there is not trauma to the tissue like a bruise. The tighter the muscle and more stagnation there is in an area, the darker the mark usually is. These marks can last up to a week and can get very dark, especially the first couple times the cups are used. If you continue to get regular massage and cupping the marks may begin to not get as dark and last for a shorter amount of time.
These marks shouldn't hurt like a bruise. You may experience some soreness similar to after a workout or deep tissue massage, especially the first couple times or if the marks are especially dark.
If you want to try cupping but don't want the marks, simply ask your therapist if they can do dynamic cupping only. Keeping the cups moving will keep you from marking up while still loosening tight muscles and increasing blood and lymphatic flow.
How do I know if cupping is right for me?
Cupping is generally safe for most people. I always recommend talking to your doctor first if you have any serious heart conditions. Cupping is contraindicated for those on blood thinners or with serious clotting disorders. Your therapist will also not work over any rashes, sun burns, skin lesions, bone fractures or bruises.
Cupping is great for anyone with muscle pain and tension (especially in the back and shoulders). It can be used on trigger points, muscle adhesions, scar tissue and can be a great tool for helping increase range of motion and muscle function and for increasing blood and lymph circulation throughout the body. Cups can be used anywhere on the body that your massage therapist would usually work, though most people prefer to mostly focus therm on the back and shoulder areas.
Have more questions about cupping? Still not sure if it's right for you? Feel free to reach out to us with what you'd like to know or talk to your primary physician about it. We're always happy to answer any questions you may have about any of our treatment options.