During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Mr. Phelps made quite the stir with not only his performance during the games; but the peculiar circular bruises he had on his back and shoulders. The media, including social-media, exploded with so many questions. Since then, we have seen celebrities showing off their circular bruises from cupping during red carpet events.
What exactly is cupping? Cupping is a Chinese medicine technique that uses suction to draw up the skin creating a vacuum in a particular area. This allows tissue to be drawn upward as opposed to being pushed down by either digital pressure (fingers/knuckles) or deep pressure from an elbow. While deep tissue is very effective at breaking up fibrous tissue (i.e. knots, tight muscles) the process can still harm the system by inadvertently breaking capillaries/blood vessels (bruises) and extremely mild micro-tearing of muscles. Cupping does leave distinctive markings only because of the suction created from the cup draws up the toxins through the many layers of soft tissue to the more superficial skin layers. Cupping DOES NOT cause bruising and is virtually painless.
Cupping is considered to be a viable treatment for cancer patients, pain, deep scar tissue in muscle and connective tissues, muscle knots, and swelling; however, the efficacy of this is unproven.
I have some patients who swear by this technique. My coworker MJ has taken a continuing education class in cupping and some massage patients are reaping the benefits from this technique. Most of the massage therapists at Northwest Wellness are pretty comfortable in using cupping with some patients, especially if the patient expresses interest in giving cupping a try.
Dr. Kim, our acupuncturist, has also done what is called Blood Cupping. Blood cupping is when the suction cups are used and the person performing the cupping punctures the skin to release what is called “bad blood” and remove toxins. I would discuss the procedure with Dr. Kim and see if you blood cupping would benefit your needs.