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What is cupping?

During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Michael Phelps made quite the stir with  not only his performance during the games, but the weird circular bruises he had on his back and shoulders. These odd looking bruises created quite the commotion that the media as well as social-media exploded with so many questions.

As a massage therapist, I knew exactly what those bruises were and became excited by all the attention cupping was getting. Cupping is a Chinese medicine technique that uses suction to draw up the skin creating a vacuum in a particular area on the skin. The technique claims to be a viable treatment for cancer, pain, deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling; however, the efficacy of this is unproven.

I have some patients who swear by this technique and maybe for them it does work. My professional opinion is if you are curious then seek out a medical professional who is credentialed to perform this procedure. I personally don’t think I will try such a technique because I believe massage is a more comfortable and more proven and effective way to break down scar tissue.

If you are interested in trying cupping, we have an acupuncturist, Dr. Kay Kim here at Northwest Wellness. We also offer massage and accept most major medical carriers.


Jennifer Roldan, massage therapist at Northwest Wellness in Federal Way