During the 2016 Summer Olympics, many people became aware of cupping after seeing athletes like Michael Phelps sporting what appeared to be large circular bruises. These ‘bruises’ were the result of a therapeutic treatment that uses various types of suction cups on specific places on the body. The suction lifts the tissue (skin, muscle, fascia), drawing blood and fluids into the area under the cup. As they are typically left in place for 5 minutes or more, they create a ‘bruise,’ which actually is broken blood vessels (capillaries) near the surface. Essentially, it’s a hickey.
Massage cupping is done with soft, silicone cups. Because they are moved over the skin, not stationary, they do not cause the round ‘bruises.’
Tight muscles restrict circulation of blood and lymph. Circulation serves two important purposes. First, circulation provides our muscles with fuel/energy, so that the muscles can fire/contract. Ironically, energy is also needed to allow the muscle to relax. Second, circulation carries away the waste products of muscle metabolism. Poor circulation will result in a buildup of those waste products in the muscle tissue. This buildup can cause pain, the pain will cause the muscle to contract, which further slows circulation , which causes pain…
Most massage involves techniques which compress tissue, which is highly effective and beneficial to the body. Massage cupping, on the other hand, lifts the tissue in ways hands alone cannot. The lifting action draws fluids back into the tight muscles and facilitates circulation . This restores both proper supply of energy to the muscles, and the removal of waste products. In this way, massage cupping results in improved muscle function with increased endurance.
Plus, cupping feels good!