Therapeutic Uses of Cupping
For over 3,000 years, civilizations all across the globe, including ancient Egypt and China, have been practicing some form of suction therapy, known today as cupping. In all that time, a variety of cupping methodologies and applications have been developed to address a wide range of health issues.
When it would benefit the patient further, Studio Brava will integrate cupping with physical therapy to assist with pain relief and rehabilitation in a growing number of cases. Most (90% or more) of our patients really love their experience of cupping—many even call us the next day after treatment to share how happy they are with their results.
Cupping Methodologies and Benefits
At Studio Brava Physical Therapy, we practice several different cupping techniques, which have been found to be effective treatment for numerous orthopedic conditions, such as acute muscle stiffness, range-of-movement limitations, sciatic nerve pain, rotator cuff injuries, TMJ dysfunction, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, or circulatory problems.
Orthopedic Massage Cupping
Our physical therapists expertly perform orthopedic massage (or gliding) cupping as a form of myofascial release to ease tight muscles, stretch shortened muscles and tendons, decompress joints, and address other musculoskeletal problems. This method, which uses silicone or hard plastic cups, can also dissolve adhesions, lengthen connective tissue, stretch and normalize the position of the soft tissue, hydrate joints by facilitating the flow of fluid, release compressed nerves, and restore normal neurological function. Some of the short-term and chronic conditions we can assist effectively include:
- Rotator cuff issues
- Tennis elbow
- Back pain
- Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
- Cervical strain/sprain
- IT Band Syndrome
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Post surgical range of motion limitation
Thanks to Michael Phelps and other 2016 Olympians, as well as celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow, this form of cupping has recently been in the public eye. However, cupping has been a traditional part of Olympic sports therapy for much of its modern history.
In sports cupping, also known as vacuum cupping, the air is pumped out of a set of cups that are properly positioned, then left in place for 5-10 minutes. Sometimes cups will be heated to enhance the effects (see Flash Cupping below). All forms of static cupping can leave darkened, yet painless, circles on the body, which usually diminish within a few days; they are not bruises, but discolorations of the skin caused by concentrating the blood flow to that area.
Cupping is another form of therapy to treat chronic overuse injuries that come from repetitive, cumulative, minor injuries in the same location, as negative pressure can help to detoxify and strengthen the physical needs of the athlete. It also helps to condition and maintain athletes’ optimal performance, recover from the stress of sporting events and competitions, and treat athletic injuries (only after a 24-hour waiting period), such as:
- Hip, knee, low back, Achilles tendon, shoulder
- Hamstring/quads, gastrocnemius and gluteal injuries
- Forearm/elbow complaints
- Hip conditions/groin pain
- Sprains and strains
- Shin splints
- Compartment syndrome
- Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome
Also known as fire glass cupping, this static method is used mostly for muscle stiffness and other conditions affecting wider muscle groups or in the upper back area. The therapist burns a small amount of alcohol in the bowl of each cup to form a vacuum, then quickly places them on the skin, where they remain left in place over the affected area for a few minutes.
Post-trauma Surgical Recovery
Cupping therapy can be performed after an appropriate period of time following orthopedic surgery, such as for joint replacements and wrist, shoulder, ankle, or femur fractures that are fixed with plates and screws, interfering with the range of motion. The therapy promotes lymphatic drainage from the surgical site, improves the mobility, healing process, and appearance of the scar, and reduces adhesion formation within the joint and under dermal tissue.
It is recommended that you avoid cupping for any of the following conditions:
- Bone or stress fracture
- G3 muscle or ligament sprain
- Internal or external rupture
- Acute inflammation
- Internal or external bleeding
- Skin damage
- Acute injuries (24-hr wait)
- Pregnancy/breast feeding
- Cancer or over a tumor
The therapists at Studio Brava Physical Therapy can inform you of the appropriate amount of time to wait following surgery or injury before using cupping to support your recovery.