If you watched the athletes of the Rio Olympics and noticed them sporting round bruises on their bodies – you saw the effects of “cupping”. Trendsetters like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston have also donned the marks on the red carpet! Cupping is an ancient technique in which therapists use special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create a suction effect. This suction draws circulation to the surface and may leave these round bruise-like marks.

This suction and negative pressure effect is used to encourage blood flow, loosen muscles and myofascia tissue. The myofascial system is a network of connective tissue throughout our body that connects the skin to muscles and surrounds our organs. The distraction and suction of cupping techniques can help to stretch and release this connective tissue. It is commonly used to relieve pain, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, radiating pain, and inflammation in our bodies.

The cups may be made of glass, bamboo, earthenware, or silicone.  The technique dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.

The practice of cupping is like an inverse massage. Instead of compressing and massaging the tissue, the cups cause a distraction and pull the skin, muscle and tissue apart from each other. The cups may be used with heat or needles for various effects. It may be used directly on an injury site, or along meridians or nerve pathways to release tension, encourage circulation, or reduce inflammation at those locations.  Cupping has also been used to help speed the process of a nasty cold, cough or allergy symptoms. It has been shown to help boost immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

Poor circulation can lead to a buildup of toxins in the body. This build up can be the root cause of many different health conditions.  Cupping can help to reduce stagnation in our body. This increase in blood flow to an area also brings nutrients, platelets, white blood cells and fibroblasts to aid in healing. This technique helps to heal knots and adhesions so can be great for scar tissue or a stubborn injury that just isn’t getting better. This is why many athletes have recently turned to this therapy to help their bodies recover faster from intense workout sessions.

If you are interested in trying cupping or have an injury that is just not getting better, the therapists at Bragg Creek Physiotherapy would love to help you out!