American Super-Swimmer, Michael Phelps has certainly turned a lot of heads at the Olympics this year, and not just due to his outstanding performance in the pool. He and many other athletes have been seen bearing the marks of an ancient Chinese therapy know as cupping.
Cupping is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that is widely used in hospitals and clinics in China today, and is useful for the relief of musculoskeletal pain and tension. In the United States you’ll find cupping commonly used by acupuncturists and massage therapists, as well as hospitals and clinics offering an Integrative Medicine approach. Cupping accesses a deeper layer within the muscle than other therapies, reaching as deep as four inches into tissues. Small glass jars or cups are used in this procedure and vary in size depending upon the area to be worked on.
Traditionally, a small flame is used to create a vacuum in the cup just before applying it to the skin, but there are now other types of cups that use a hand pump. This vacuum affect pulls the skin and muscle tissue into the cup. The tension of the vacuum helps to relax the muscles, give more play between muscle and fascia, unbind knots or areas of tension, release toxins, and stimulate blood flow. It is viewed as getting a massage from the inside out. During massage, pressure is applied to the skin, cupping pulls the skin up, providing pressure from the other direction. The cups then can either be left in place for 5-15 minutes (Stationary Cupping) or they can be slid over lubricated skin and cover a larger area (Sliding Cupping). Most people find this procedure to be relaxing and palliative, with little to no discomfort.
Cupping is beneficial not only for pain, but for the treatment of asthma, other bronchial conditions, back pain, and even the treatment of cellulite. The only “side effect” of cupping is the appearance of temporary skin discoloration (the bruise-like circles you see on the swimmers pictured) as the stagnant blood in the tissues releases through the surface of the skin. This discoloration is harmless and only occurs when there is stagnation within the tissues. Skin returns to normal color within days or up to a week and the intensity of the color is directly correlated to the amount of stagnation present.
For more information and to see cupping therapy in action, read and watch this video presentation available at the health website, Peak Fitness.
The Ommani Center’s licensed acupuncturist Aimee Brown often uses cupping as an add-on to pain relief treatments, but it can also be used as a stand-alone therapy. If you have questions about the amazing benefits of cupping and/or acupuncture contact Ommani today 262-695-5311 and ask to schedule an appointment (or request a conversation with Aimee).