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Massage Cupping


Author: Stacey Hankins, LMT

Massage cupping is a modern adaptation of the ancient Chinese art of cupping therapy. Large glass cups are used on the back and legs as a unique way of applying myofascial techniques and deep tissue massage.

Cupping has a sedating effect on the nervous system, and many people find it profoundly relaxing. Contracted, tense and painful muscle tissue will soften quickly with just a few minutes of massage cupping. Cupping is often used with another therapy, such as therapeutic massage.

How does cupping work?

A vacuum is created in a glass or bamboo "cup" with a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. The cotton ball is ignited and inserted into the cup which will evacuate some air, creating a vacuum. The cotton ball is withdrawn and the cup is quickly placed on the skin. Then the practitioner slides the cup along a large body surface such as the back or thigh until softening of the muscle and connective tissue is observed. Pure jojoba oil is used to help the cups glide smoothly. This technique is known as massage cupping or "moving cups."

Your acupuncturist may use stationary cups, sliding cups or other techniques such as combining the use of acupuncture needles, moxa, or herbal preparations for treatment of other conditions not addressed with massage cupping.

Cupping Treatment

Is cupping painful?

Cupping is generally not painful. Some people who suffer from fibromyalgia or other chronic muscular disorders may feel minimal discomfort and should mention it immediately so adjustments can be made. Many people report that muscle tension and tenderness continues to improve for many hours after the session is completed.

Why should I try Massage Cupping?

Sometimes areas of tension or injury are simply too tense or tender to treat with certain therapeutic methods such as deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy or cross-fibre friction. Massage cupping is a gentle, non-invasive way to soften broad areas of tension so that more specific massage techniques can be comfortably applied. Massage cupping is especially effective for tightness of the iliotibial (IT) band, and chronic pain, tightness, and spasm in the middle to lower back.

* Note: Massage cupping is only used for dysfunction of the muscles and connective tissue. It is not used on someone suffering from illness or fever, on areas with thin skin (hands, feet, forearms, inner thighs or chest), or on the abdomen. It is contra-indicated for skin conditions, open wounds, and on the back during pregnancy. Cupping, as used by your acupuncturist, is a different type of session, and may or may not involve treatment of some of the above mentioned areas or conditions.


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