Cupping Therapy Explained
Cupping is an alternative therapy option with a long history of use. It dates back thousands of years; one of the earliest written records of cupping, found in Eber’s papyrus, was completed in 1550BC1. Furthermore, cupping has historically been used alongside complementary therapies such as herbal medicines and acupuncture. More recently, athletes and fitness enthusiasts have turned to cupping to promote healing and sooth muscles2. These treatments are often paired with THC-free CBD to increase therapeutic properties of both modalities.
What Does a Cupping Session Involve?
A typical cupping session will depend on the condition and region of the body being treated. During your treatment, glass or plastic cups will be placed against the skin. Suction will be created within these cups by either the application of heat or use of a small pump. That suction increases blood flow to the area, and pulls your skin into the bowl of the cups. The increased blood flow is what causes the classic red circles you may have seen.
In general, you will feel an intense, warm sensation as each cup is placed during your treatment. They will remain in place while natural suction allows your skin to be drawn into the bowl. We will remove each cup after several minutes. At that point, you may feel a drop in tension in the area being treated. The treatment area should be kept clean following your treatment to avoid infection.
Red circular marks will likely be visible after treatments. These can last for anywhere from several days to as long as 3 weeks.
The History of Cupping
As I mentioned earlier, cupping is an ancient practice going back thousands of years. Although it’s roots are in Eastern medicine, cultures around the globe have incorporated cupping into their medical and healing traditions. Descriptions of its use can be found in records from Egypt, China, Tibet, and Greece.
Many of these cultures contributed to the technique of cupping by incorporating complementary therapies such as herbs, cutting (wet cupping), and acupuncture into its practice.
The Science Behind the Practice
Cupping works by using suction to draw blood to the surface of your skin. Toxins that have built up within your body are also drawn to the surface. The use of cutting or acupuncture is thought to facilitate the removal of these toxins during wet cupping.
Traditional Chinese medicine states that cupping works by removing blockages in the path of Qi, or the energy within your body. This is why it is generally performed along main acupuncture meridians along the back. In modern practice, cupping therapy improves micro-circulation in the treatment area. This floods muscles with oxygen-rich blood, a necessary component of the recovery process.
Athletes are Relying on Cupping
The 2016 Olympics brought cupping into the forefront of athletic performance discussions. Seeing the circular red marks on high-profile athletes like Michael Phelps and Alex Naddour raised awareness of cupping’s benefits among athletes.
Athletes are looking for natural, holistic approaches to pain management and quicker muscle recovery. Cupping provides an excellent option. Much like massage therapy applies downward pressure on your muscles, cupping uses the pressure of suction to draw them upward. This relaxes and soothes tired and painful muscle and, combined with increased circulation, is especially beneficial for athletes.
The beneficial properties of CBD without THC make it a perfect companion treatment to use with cupping. Topical tinctures, specifically formulated to be free from THC, have been shown to help ease inflammation, reduce stress, and help regulate the immune system. These properties make them very attractive to athletes and fitness enthusiasts, many of whom use the oils in their muscle recovery routines.
Current research supports the use of cupping for several conditions. It further indicates that cupping, when added to other treatments, may lead to greater reductions in pain and improved overall results than when those treatments are performed alone3. When combined with the naturally anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, cupping may help to speed recovery times and improve athletic performance.
Based on the information available, cupping therapy has the potential to increase recovery time while helping to ease muscle stiffness and pain. It is also a natural and safe treatment option. That makes it attractive to many people looking for increased performance or shorter recovery times without chemicals or high-risk side effects. If that sounds like you, consider talking to your provider about integrating cupping therapy into your training routine.
1. Aboushanab T., AlSanad S. (2018). "A Quality Model to Select Patients in Cupping Therapy Clinics: A New Tool for Ensuring Safety in Clinical Practice" JAMS Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, Volume 11, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2018.02.001 2. Reddy, B. (2018) "The Science of Cupping" National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. http://www.nccaom.org/science-of-cupping/ 3. Cao, H., Li, X., & Liu, J. (2012). An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy. PloS one, 7(2), e31793.
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