Cupping is a technique used in conjunction with acupuncture or dry needling. Cupping pulls blood to a region to stimulate healing. It is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles. Cupping helps the tissue develop new blood flow and causes anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body.
Cupping is generally painless and many say is more effective than massage for muscle problems. Versions of Cupping can be found in many cultures from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. As we age, especially after 40 years old, our body begins to break down. This includes loss of muscle, adhesions in fascia and decrease in blood flow. You can see this as your muscle tone decreases, we get stiffer and wrinkles start to appear in new places. As we move less and decrease our physical activity the blood supply to tissues decrease and the fascia gets knotted and scarred up further limiting movement and becoming a vicious cycle.
Putting cups over a region helps the body reverse some of these effects. What I’m about to tell you was revealed in the Russians research on cupping. Initially it pulls blood into an area. The tissues get saturated with fresh blood while the vacuum pulls stagnant blood out of the area. You can see this in the hickey like appearance that is typically left behind. You may have a black and blue appearance that is rarely painful. I have noticed a couple characteristics about this phenomenon. One is that it happens more in people over 40 and two the more cupping you receive the less the bruising happens. As new blood is forced into the tissues around the cups the body will begin to develop new blood vessels called neovascularization, new blood vessel formation. I believe this is why cupping can cause a lasting effect. As the new vessels form they will have the capability to feed the tissues with nutrient and oxygen. Like you and me, all tissues need food and oxygen to survive.
Something else happens early in this process as well. It is called sterile inflammation. Now many hear the word inflammation and think it is a bad thing. After all we take anti-inflammatory when there is pain and swelling so inflammation must be bad, right? But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Inflammation is the first line of healing. The body releases white blood cells, platelets, fibroblasts and other healing chemicals to promote healing. When the vacuum occurs it causes separation of the different layers of tissue which can cause micro trauma and tearing. The healing chemicals I mentioned above get released and stimulate healing.
The inflammation is not chronic nor is it bad. Next the fascia and tissue can be stretched several feet with cupping. The micro trauma is occurring, the new blood vessels are being formed and the blood and nutrients are starting to flow to the damaged tissue. But when you put 10 or so cups on the back or around the injured area it can begin to stretch the connective tissue and fascia for better movement. Many tell me that cupping works faster and last longer for them than massage. It’s amazing to see the connective tissue stretch this much. Many people start out very tight but over time they can confirm what I see when doing this to people that the tissue is getting looser. Also cupping can be used as anti-cellulite treatment for women.