Written by: Nicole Heuschkel, L.Ac
The iconic purplish circular marks, made popular by athletes and celebs like Michael Phelps, Gwenyth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, are blazing an eastern path in a western minded world. While the marks may look intimidating, they are indeed beneficial and can even be relaxing. These marks are the result of a procedure called Cupping.
Cupping is a form of alternative therapy, in which cups are placed on the skin to create suction. The goal is to increase circulation, help relieve pain, remove “heat” and pull out toxins that linger in your body’s tissues. Cupping can help treat pain and inflammation and can even act as a deep tissue massage. It stimulates the flow of fresh blood, lymph and qi to the affected area. “Traditionally, the process involves a glass that is heated inside using a flame and then placed on top of the skin, where it creates a vacuum and sucks the skin up into the cup. The aim is to release the tension in sore muscles, Perlman said. Some use pottery or bamboo cups, or a more modern device that relies on a hand pump to produce the suction.” (1) You will usually feel a tight sensation around the area of the cup, but most people experience is to be soothing. Your practitioner can alter the intensity of suction based on your preference.
Although cupping has been in the recent spotlight with the Olympics, you don’t have to be an athlete (or an Olympian!) to reap the benefits of it. Cupping therapy is great to treat tight muscles, aid in detoxing the body, and may even help with the flu, cough/ congestion, poor circulation, anxiety, fevers and a variety of other ailments. People who commute long hours for work or those that are hunched over their computers non-stop can just as easily benefit from cupping. Neck pain and back pain may be top contenders for reasons to seek treatment, but it can be performed almost anywhere (fleshy sections tend to work best) on the body to help aches, pains and joint issues. Dr. Michael Smith explains the procedure and benefits of cupping as, “The suction pulls the tight muscles and stretches the fascia, the connective tissue around the muscles, and in effect, allows blood vessels to expand. The theory is that the increased blood flow speeds healing.”
“Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an injury or energetic blockage under the area that was cupped. The skin discoloration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but is rarely painful. Once the marks have cleared, the procedure can be repeated until the condition or ailment is resolved.” (2) If you can get past the odd looks you may get from others, you may find that cupping is that extra something you have been searching for. As always, it is important to go to a licensed professional. Call Monmouth Pain & Rehabilitation at 732-345-1377 or submit the form on this page to learn more about cupping or to schedule an appointment.