You may have seen Michael Phelps or Gwyneth Paltrow with patterns of perfectly circular bruises on their backs and wondered “is this a fashion statement or a health thing?”.
These marks are actually from the Traditional Chinese Medicine practice called cupping. Read on to find out what it is and what conditions it can be helpful in treating.
What is cupping?
Cupping is a treatment that has been used for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In this practice, cups are placed on the skin to create a vacuum. It acts like a reverse massage, where the cups pull the skin, muscles and fascia upwards (and it feels like a nice massage too!).
There are 2 types of cups that can be used; glass cups are used (with heat to create this vacuum), or plastic cups can be used with a mechanical vacuum instead. Cups can also be used in different ways. Stationary cupping is when the cups are left in one spot (this is the type of cupping that leaves the Michael Phelps marks). Moving cupping is when massage oil is applied to the skin before placing the cups, allowing them to slide along the muscles.
What is cupping used for?
Similar to massage therapy, cupping enhances circulation, reduces pain, decreases inflammation, and relaxes muscles. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is also thought to clear heat and clear respiratory ailments. In my practice I use cups for muscle tension (neck, back, chest, legs, arms), and to treat/decrease tension headaches.
Have you tried cupping before?