“Is cupping therapy actually effective or is it just another one of those “woo woo” wellness trends?” This is a question that I get asked quite often so I figured I would take this opportunity to share my experience with cupping and everything you need to know about cupping therapy before you go to your first session!
Like many others, the first time I heard about cupping was when Michael Phelps exposed those crazy, perfectly circular, dark marks on his back during the 2016 Olympics. My initial thought was, “WTF, why would someone put themselves through something that appears to be brutally painful?!” But, then I started to see more and more people with cupping marks on their back. Especially yogis and athletes so I became intrigued and began to wonder why people do cupping? Is it worth the money? And most importantly, does it work?
If you’ve been following along on Instagram lately, you’ve probably heard me complain about my back injury a time or two. I debated whether or not I wanted to spend money on a treatment that I wasn’t quite sure would be good for a back injury, but had already tried everything in the books (besides medications because I try my best to avoid them) and wasn't finding any relief. So after some thinking, I decided if profound athletes trust this treatment on their bodies and Google seems to think it's effectively healing, then why not give cupping a try? (Side fun fact about me: I Google everything.)
So...what is cupping therapy?
Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapy that is based on the belief that stagnant blood and a poor energy flow in your body are the cause of various health problems. During a cupping a session, practitioners apply cups that create suction on particular area (most commonly the back) of the body drawing blood to the area and increasing blood flow. The cups can be made of glass, silicon, bamboo, or plastic. There are also a few different kind of cupping therapies including those that include lighting a flame, moving the cup around to create a massage effect, and even facial cupping! Studies show that the increased blood flow created by the pressure of the cup can relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and reduce inflammation. Also, it’s super quick and for the average person the cups are only left on for 5-8 minutes.
Sounds similar to a massage, right? Well, it's quite different.
Cupping is used for many reasons including...
treating chronic pain, including back pain and headaches
used to rid of musculoskeletal pain, which is often caused by a physical manifestation of chronic stress
detoxification - although detoxification isn't a thing, what people are referring to is relieving the inflammation in the area
increases blood circulation by attracting immune cells to particular location to increase the repair and recovery process so that the swelling can dissipate
helps manage stress by relieving the physical symptoms
As with anything medical, you should always check with your doctor before trying cupping. If you are on blood thinners, issues with bleeding, or experience blood clotting you should steer clear of cupping therapy.
So now that you have a general idea of what cupping therapy is and what it’s used for, you may be wondering if it actually works and if it is worth your dollars? From my personal experience the answer is YES, cupping does work!
About a month ago I decided to try cupping for my low back injury. The pain caused by my injury was excruciating and was causing problems in my hips and entire right leg. The tightness in my muscles was so ridiculous that when I got a myofascial massage and the first side was completed my legs had about a 2 inch difference in length! Now, that’s some killer muscle tension right there.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from cupping other than everyone telling me it felt amazing. To be honest, I wouldn’t quite call the feeling of cupping therapy amazing during the session, but the after effects were incredible. I was sore for about 24 hours (which for some people they are not sore at all!), but once that time passed I felt a significant difference in my back. My back didn't feel like it was having muscle spasms anymore, I was able to sleep more comfortably, and I could sit or stand comfortably for longer than 5 minutes. Please do keep in mind though that every body is different and cupping may have a different effect on how you feel during and after the session.
Cupping therapy can be expensive, but there are plenty of reputable places that are affordable. Just always make sure that you read about the place and doctor you're visiting before you make your appointment! Usually the integrative medicine places are the ones you want to check out.
All in all, I believe that cupping was very effective for my body and helped to relieve the pain I was experiencing. I will be continuing to incorporate cupping therapy into my wellness routine and splurging a little extra money on this treatment because I believe it to be worth it.
One more little tip…try cupping therapy and acupuncture together for real special treat! More to come on acupuncture soon!
So tell me, have you tried cupping therapy? Or would you consider trying?