Cupping Therapy at Studio Brava
At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, millions of people around the world wondered about the round purple marks appearing on the skin of swimming medalist Michael Phelps, gymnast Alex Naddour, and other Olympians. The large polka-dots were bruise-like discolorations from an ancient Eastern alternative healing practice known as cupping, which many modern athletes rely on as a natural way to recover from muscle soreness, stimulate blood flow, and enhance their performance.
If you’ve heard of this holistic approach and would like to experience its many benefits, Studio Brava Physical Therapy now offers therapeutic cupping to support the well-being of clients throughout the Los Angeles Westside area. Read on for an overview and description of this increasingly popular therapy.
What is Cupping?
According to Oriental medicine traditions, cupping works to restore the equilibrium of the body’s life force, or qi (chi). Modern practitioners of cupping believe—and anecdotal patient evidence supports—that when this therapy is used in the correct way, healing is induced naturally to address specific concerns, including:
- Pain relief
- Muscle stiffness
- Joint mobility restriction
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Headaches and migraines
- Digestive detoxification
- Facial lymphatic drainage
- Cellulite reduction
- Weight loss
- Skin conditions
- Mental relaxation
- Stress relief
Our licensed therapists at Studio Brava manipulate small, specially designed glass, silicone or hard plastic cups to create a vacuum, resulting in negative pressure (suction) on the skin’s surface. This is also called reverse massage, because skin and the subdermal area beneath it is pulled upwards as opposed to being compressed.
To minimize the chance of infection, all our cups are sterilized by antibacterial soap, alcohol, or steam heat between individual uses.
History of Cupping
Cupping is the one of the oldest and most globally practiced medical treatments in human medical history. The medical histories of most cultures show evidence of some variation of suction or cupping going back as far as 3,500 years in Egypt and 3,000 years in China. Various indigenous tribes in Africa, Pacific Islands and the Americas later used primitive forms of suction therapy; stone carvings and drawings indicate that other ancient civilizations across Europe, Russia and the Middle East also practiced multiple cupping methods. The very earliest instruments used were gourds, which evolved into the use of animal horns, bones, stones, nuts, seashells, bamboo, earthenware and metals.
Prior to the 13th century, when they were excluded from medical universities, women were the predominant healers in most villages and communities, and the most likely practitioners of cupping therapies. By the late 19th century, so-called “folk remedies” like cupping had fallen out of favor as the Western medical establishment imposed a new paradigm of advanced procedures, such as pharmaceuticals and surgery.
In recent decades, however, cupping and other complementary, holistic treatments have resurged, as the general public takes more responsibility for their own healthcare decisions.
Types of Cupping
Over time, many forms of cupping have been developed around the world. At Studio Brava Physical Therapy, we perform dry cupping techniques, which are effective, non-invasive and natural. This method can be considered a relative of acupressure, based on the Chinese meridian system that focuses treatment on specific points in the body to enhance qi.
In massage cupping, a single suction cup is moved gently along the skin in particular patterns, using oil to minimize friction. The strong reverse pressure created can help to loosen muscles and deep connective tissues (fascia) or stimulate digestive detoxing in the colon. When performed on the face for lymphatic drainage, smaller cups with less suction are used.
In 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. This is the technique that can leave darkened, yet painless, circles on the body, which usually diminish within a few days.
Side Effects and Cautions
Cupping is considered to be safe when administered by a trained professional. However, some patients may experience mild side effects, such as discomfort, discoloration (similar to, but not bruising), or minor burns when heat is used. We take every effort to sterilize our equipment, using antibacterial soaps, and alcohol or autoclave sterilizer.
A complete medical history intake form is required before receiving treatment to rule out any contraindications, such as the ones listed below.
CAUTION: DO NOT use cupping therapy if you:
- Are in the first trimester of pregnancy
- Are breast feeding
- Have broken bones, dislocations, hernia or slipped discs
- Are receiving cancer treatments
- Have been diagnosed with heart disease or cardiopathy
- Are experiencing organ failure or liver/kidney illness
- Recently had surgery of any kind
Inform your therapist in advance if you have skin conditions (including shingles, psoriasis, eczema, herpes, hives or rosacea), low blood pressure, diabetes, depleted energy/fatigue or you are taking blood thinners.