In our industry, a lot of trends come and go. People are always looking for the next “new” treatment, so consumers have to be wary of spas trying to sell them a technique that seems unusual.
But when elite athletes are using it, it’s time to take notice. And every four years, the Summer Olympics give us a great excuse to talk about “cupping.”
If you’ve been watching the Tokyo Olympics, you’ve probably seen evidence of cupping on all sorts of athletes, from swimmers to wrestlers to soccer players. This targeted physical therapy/treatment leaves its mark in the form of perfectly round circles on the skin. But the treatment itself actually goes much deeper.
First of all, cupping isn’t new. While the technique has gained increasing prominence in Western society over the last three decades, cupping has been documented in Chinese, Middle Eastern and north African texts from thousands of years ago.
In fact, because cupping involves targeting very specific parts of the body to promote whole-body health and to treat particular ailments, it can be closely associated with acupuncture.
Historically, the cups used could have been made of natural substances like bamboo or clay.
What Is Cupping?
In modern-day cupping therapy, glass “cups” are used. First, the air inside the cup is heated. Then the cup is placed, opening toward the skin, in a hyper-specific location on the body.
As the air cools, it creates a suction effect that puts pressure on the skin. Just as with message, that targeted pressure is key. But rather than putting pressure down onto the skin, muscles and joints, cupping pressure draws outward, pulling away from the body.
(Alternately, some cupping practitioners use cups that are equipped with a pump to create the necessary vacuum.)
What Does Cupping Do?
As with acupuncture and massage, cupping can be used to treat a variety of ailments while also promoting whole-body health.
Cupping first and foremost promotes blood flow and can be used to gently manipulate and realign body tissue. That, in and of itself, can treat sore or injured muscles and alleviate joint pain.
But cupping treatments extend to other uses, too. Cupping can be used to remove toxins from the body, lower blood pressure, and even as a treatment for anxiety and depression.
The location of the cups may correlate directly with the afflicted body part. But applying the treatment to a specific place can have real effects elsewhere in the body, too.
Is Cupping Right for You?
If you’ve never tried cupping, now is a great time to discuss it with a licensed therapist. You may have short-term needs for cupping treatment, or—just like massages—you can incorporate cupping into your ongoing health routine.