My cups have been virtually glued to my body recently.
I use them on my legs. My ITB (the band of tissue that runs down the outside of my thigh) makes me wince if I use anything other than the smallest of cups but boy is it effective in lifting the fascia away from the muscles underneath!
I’ve more or less ditched the foam roller, which although if used correctly can smooth out knots and areas of adhesion but crushes the muscles fibres if used too vigorously (most of us who foam roller go at it with masochistic zeal – more about that in another blog which is on my to do list to write)
I use them on my arms. The muscles and tendons of my forearms get tight from massaging all day long and then getting on my bike at the weekends and using the brakes constantly on the Sussex hills.
My own massage therapist uses them on my back. The idea is that they use negative pressure to lift and separate and give space to tissues which never previously knew that they should act independently from their neighbours.
Cupping does what myofascial release* can do.
At least that is how I think my cups work. I’m being bold and putting it out there (hit me with your comments below) Others agree with me but it my be speculation and for me I say it based on my own experiences as a giver and receiver and a bit of an educated guess. Don’t get me wrong. I use myofascial release techniques every day and they are incredibly powerful and effective. It’s just that the cups do seem to work to release myofascia* very quickly.
Olympian swimmer Michael Phelps has brought cupping to the media’s attention and is often seen with cupping marks over his shoulders, back and legs. I have seen a horrific photo claiming to be of his back covered in blisters from FIRE Cupping. I hope it worked!
The type of cupping I practice does not usually leave marks, although sometimes it can leave the skin ‘sunblushed’
There are many types of cupping including
- cups used in Chinese medicine (it was getting some cupping on my back from my acupuncturist which absolutely blew me away and I just HAD to learn to do it myself!)
- HIJAMA which is a WET form (i.e. a cut is made in the skin and blood drawn)
- DRY cupping (which is what I practice)
- FIRE cupping where flames are used to create the vacuum
The cups are placed on the skin and then a pump is used to draw a vacuum. You can really see how the skin is lifted in the photo above. I can either ‘park’ the cups on a tight area which will leave the circular marks (fixed cupping) or glide them across the skin, (moving cupping) lifting the layers of tissue as I progress either in the direction of the muscle fibres or across them (and usually both)
I then massage in my normal way and the difference with the tissues pre and post cupping is often incredible.
Back to ‘Maria’s theory’ on cupping vs what science has to say. There are too many claims on what can be achieved by cupping from curing fertility and removing cellulite to helping with fibromyalgia and arthritis. Cupping may help but it would be irresponsible of me to make wild claims until more research is done. There is also much speculation on how cupping works. If you want to read further I would urge you to read this article from Massage Magazine. Reading the comments below the article suggests that very much more research is needed to convince some evidence based practitioners.
So there you go. I’m not going to make fantastic claims. I’ve stated how I think it works for me. I have clients who absolutely swear by it. Famous sports people use it and believe in it.
I’ve also tried it on some who did NOT enjoy the sensation.
Why don’t you try it out and decide for yourself? Like Marmite you will either love it or hate it. If you don’t like it, I can switch to another type of massage session but there is only one way to know.
It can feel absolutely incredible and I for one am a huge fan!!
End note: When I was looking for pictures to describe cupping, The Queen of Cups from the Tarot cards popped into my mind. I thought I would check her out and this is what I read:
The Queen is nurturing, caring, compassionate and sensitive. Her thoughts and feelings come from her subconscious mind and the depths of her soul.
These attributes are ones that we as therapists do well to embrace.
* Fascia is a type of connective tissue that runs through the body and connects tissues or structures. Myo – fascia relates to the fascia surrounding and running through muscles. In a poor state, where it becomes stuck or tangled it can cause pain and impair movement. Myofascial release is a type of treatment modality that aims to correct fascial disfunction.