Developed in the Far East centuries ago, cupping is a modality widely used by physical therapists, acupuncturists, and chiropractors to effectively improve blood flow, improve chi, reduce pain, and improve tissue mobility and movement.
But, does it work? And, who should try it?
In our physio practice at Next Level Physio, we use cupping therapy on clients of all ages. Symptoms and conditions range from stiffness, chronic pain, ligament injury, muscle cramps, strains. While its efficacy has been questioned, research supports its use and benefits.
Studies have demonstrated a positive effect on connective tissue by improving tissue mobility- localized temperature increases in the areas being cupped, which decreases stiffness in muscle. So, if clients report muscle or ligamentous “stiffness” prior to performing exercise, we’ll often have them get cupped actively (perform short range exercises while being cupped), which often helps them “loosen up.”
Cupping has also been shown to increase localized tissue acidity, which we now know can actually help reduce fatigue1 and stimulate nitric oxide release; this allows improved circulation and blood flow, which can improve both recovery and performance preparation, especially in active people. In addition, cupping does provide a systemic effect with some studies demonstrating a reduction in inflammation.
For chronic pain clients, studies have shown a reduction in pain intensity and duration when used over time, by blocking the pain response and releasing your natural opioids, which provide an alternative to addictive pain medications.
All in all, most people of all ages can benefit from cupping therapy. As always, we do recommend that you seek professional guidance before applying the cups to make sure that where they are applied won’t do harm!
- Cairns SP. Lactic acid and exercise performance : culprit or friend? Sports Med. 2006;36(4):279-91.