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What is Cupping Therapy and Does it Really Work?

Home » What is Cupping Therapy and Does it Really Work?

Cupping Therapy has likely caught your attention in recent years. Remember when Michael Phelps showed up at the 2016 Olympics with some dramatic-looking, circular bruise marks on his back? Cameras zoomed in, and the questions started!

Today, it’s still an eye-catching treatment on social media – and celebrities from professional athletes to the Kardashians share photos of their sessions. You may have coworkers and friends who are getting cupping therapy in Scottsdale, and you’ve become curious about it. However, for the average health-conscious individual, the benefits may not be clear. Is it only for athletes? How might it help you? We know our clients have questions, and in this blog, Dr. Sorr will introduce you to this popular treatment.

So, let’s talk about the science behind cupping, explore the mechanics of how it helps relieve pain and promote healing, and discuss how it can help you live better. 

History of Cupping Therapy

As the concept of cupping therapy began with traditional Chinese medicine, it can seem a bit exotic. However, understanding the evolution of the treatment through the centuries will demystify it considerably! In Chinese, cupping is known as “pulling-up jars.” From the beginning, the mechanism of cupping has done just that – lift tissue and decompress. Simple and powerful, this therapy has been used for over 5000 years to help eliminate stagnation and blockage of the body’s “qi” (chi) or blood flow. 

In the beginning, the classic cupping technique of ba guan zi focused on areas of pain or acupuncture points on the body’s energy meridians. Practitioners used cups made of clay, horn, or bamboo on their patients, carefully heating them before placing them on each spot. After all this time, the concept remains the same, so clearly, there are positive benefits! 

So what does cupping therapy do to your body? From the beginning, the vacuum inside the cups put the skin, muscles, circulation, and connective tissue under a bit of stress. As the air in each cup cools down, it creates a vacuum and pulls up on the skin and underlying areas. Like many aspects of alternative medicine, this is a simple procedure that can create some profound effects. As the area is lifted into the cup, it increases blood flow, loosens connective and myofascial tissue, and stimulates healing. This action is also referred to as Decompression Myofascial Release.

How Does Cupping Therapy Work?

As you might guess, these are some very desirable effects for anyone suffering from pain and tightness. Cupping benefits are sometimes immediate – it’s no wonder this practice is still used today. As with all medical procedures, its current use has become more streamlined and targeted and improved with modern technology. At Source of Health, we take a 21st-century approach to cupping, often using it in conjunction with other therapies and treatments. It’s a fast and effective way to reduce pain from tight muscles and stiff fascia immediately.

Many deep tissue therapies, such as massage, can help break up scar tissue and reduce pain. The action of the cups also addresses these issues – and more. Let’s look more closely at the bruising that cupping creates. It both promotes your healing and can help you measure your progress in recovering.

At our clinic, we use an assortment of suction cups on your sore muscles, allowing them to develop for a few minutes as they concentrate blood flow to the area. When removed, they leave behind the hickey-like bruises that you’ve seen on athletes and others. 

These are quite beneficial in a couple of ways. Bruising and pain indicate that we’re getting to the source of the problem: a blockage or stagnation of either blood and/or qi. Secondly, the benefits of these bruises are similar to using Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. PRP is a highly effective type of regenerative medicine that we use at our clinic. In the process of creating the bruise, blood platelets release Growth Factors. These small proteins direct the healing process as they stimulate local stem cells and encourage the body to heal wounds. In general, PRP therapy accelerates the repair of soft tissue injuries. 

The bruises also help show our patients where there are problem areas and where their circulation is normal. As they fade over the next 7-10 days, they’ll highlight spots that need more help. A darker colored bruise means that area has more issues.

What Happens in a Cupping Session?

What can you expect from your cupping therapy sessions at Source of Health? Before your first session, Dr. Sorr will meet with you to discover what you want from your treatment and work with you to prepare an effective schedule. Typically, you’ll receive a treatment every other week. 

At your first session, individual cups will be placed on your tight muscle areas, and a handheld suction pump, not heat, creates the vacuum. This is a modern take on the process and is widely regarded as being more comfortable for patients and controllable by the practitioner. 

Each placement is customized to your particular needs. The cups will be allowed to work for a few minutes, then removed. Following this, one cup is placed lightly across the back – like a massage. This continues to untether the knots in your fascia. 

After your session, you’ll see a range of colors in the resulting bruises. Varying from pink to deep purple, they’ll provide diagnostic information. The darker the mark, the deeper the issue. Dark hues can stem from poor circulation, weak capillaries, tight muscles, and fascial adhesions (scar tissue) that keep the area flooded with cell waste metabolites and toxins.

What Can I Expect After My Sessions?

As you progress in your healing, cupping therapy appointments can be reduced to maintenance sessions every month. You’ll see lighter bruising, as well. Regular appointments allow our patients to see the results over time while still stimulating recovery from regular activities.

You can expect to feel results from your cupping therapy sessions beyond pain relief. Our clients describe the effects as feeling lighter in their body and experiencing an increased range of motion. But, remember: cupping does more than treat tightness and discomfort. The way that it stimulates healing at a deep level makes it a vital building therapy. It helps increase your body’s resilience to stressors of all types. When combined with a healthy exercise and diet regimen, cupping therapy can provide a powerful synergy in your life, helping to keep you active and living up to your full potential.

Does Cupping Therapy Contribute to Your Total Health?

Dr. Sorr and our team redefine healthcare with a total-body approach to your wellbeing. We improve people on more than one level! When you visit us, we don’t just treat symptoms such as pain. We combine the treatment of anatomy while addressing your day-to-day functioning. We take a holistic approach with cupping like all other therapies at Source of Health. As such, many patients will receive a chiropractic adjustment before cupping therapy to help create optimal alignment. We can also treat our patients with acupuncture after a cupping session. Dr. Sorr often combines this with electrical stimulation to deepen their healing potential. The impulses help muscles contract and relax in a relaxing wave-like pattern as they encourage recovery.

To experience your first cupping therapy session, please contact us to set up a Discovery Session. This treatment is so popular, we’ve added it to our HealthySelf membership options. This way, our patients can receive regular treatments to see continued results over time while mixing and matching it with complementary therapies.

If learning about our alternative medicine treatment options has you interested in controlling your health without invasive procedures and prescriptions, we’re ready to be your partners! Check out our FAQs and let us know how we can help you enjoy a new approach to total wellness

BECOME A PATIENT

During your initial discovery session, we’ll listen to your concerns and make sure we are a great fit to help you. We’ll review any recent imaging, labs or other pertinent information. But most importantly, we’ll listen.

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