What is cupping in a massage?
Cupping stimulates tissue relaxation and better cell-to-cell communication. The research of U.S. physiologist and acupuncturist Helene Langevin has documented cell-level changes using an ultrasound camera. She has demonstrated that techniques like cupping, acupuncture, and massage relax tissue and reduce markers of inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) are reduced, and cytokines that promote healing and relaxation are increased.
A therapeutic cupping treatment involves placing silicone cups on the skin using suction. A vacuum is created, the tissue is drawn up into the cup. This increases the blood flow, loosens the fascia or connective tissue, and is thought to stimulate healing. It is similar to the way deep tissue massage can be used to break up scar tissue and reduce pain. The cups are often placed on the back, neck, and shoulders or the site of pain. Cupping may cause temporary bruising and soreness, depending upon the degree of suction created by the vacuum and the level of internal stagnation. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this is a favorable outcome, suggesting the treatment has successfully removed toxins and stagnation. The cups are removed by lifting one edge, which allows air in and breaks the seal and vacuum.
The sliding cups technique is traditionally performed on large muscle groups of the back to treat pain and muscle spasms. Massage oil is applied to the skin prior to the cups being placed, which allows the cups to glide easily over the surface of the skin.
We use this technique as an adjunct to other modalities.