– Massage Cupping –

We’ve all seen those marks. The circles left by cupping are unmistakable.

But what exactly IS cupping?
What does it do?
Why should I try it?


We will answer all of these questions and more.


What is Cupping?

Cupping involves placing a “cup” on the skin in an area of tension or pain and creating a bit of a vacuum within that cup.
This results in a suctioning effect on the tissue directly beneath the cup.
Cupping is said to help with a variety of ailments ranging from chronic aches and pains, muscle tension,
scar tissue, and headaches, to stress, anxiety, depression, and even immune function.


Where did Cupping come from?

To say that Cupping has been around for a while,
and has been popular across many cultures, is an understatement.

The Papyrus Ebers, an Ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll of herbal and medical knowledge, references cupping therapies.
Traditional Chinese, Korean, Tibetan and Oriental medicines have all utilized cups for centuries.
Even Hippocrates had an interest in cups and their uses,
cataloging his theories on how different sizes and styles lent themselves to different treatments.

Now, as Americans are developing more and more interest in alternative and holistic medicines,
Cupping has become popular here as well.


What does Cupping do?

Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that stagnation of blood and of qi (described as a vital energy or life force
which flows throughout the body) is what causes pain and disease.
Cupping is said to invigorate not just blood flow within the area, but also qi.
As qi is an intangible phenomenon, Western Medicine has yet to substantiate this assertion.

From a Western perspective, it is theorized that cupping mobilizes blood, metabolic waste, and lymph fluid that has stagnated in area.
This effectively flushes that area and creates space for fresh blood and nutrients; thus stimulating tissue relaxation and facilitating better inter-cellular communication.  


So, how does Cupping work?

If you are like me, you might be skeptical of the fact that the way in which cupping works is still only a theory. That ultimately, Western Medicine doesn’t quite understand how it works.
I like my therapies to be understood; the risks, the benefits, the ways in which they work, etc. (Especially when those therapies are going to leave me looking like I just wrestled an octopus…)

Part of the issue with truly understanding cupping is that there are not many Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) investigating it. An RCT is an experiment that aims to reduce extraneous variables and sources of bias. Currently, while a variety of group and case studies on cupping exist, many of them are not well-controlled, and most of them only examine the outcomes of the therapy, not the mechanisms by which it achieves them.

Below is a brief summary of the existing research on the beneficial effects of therapeutic cupping from the perspective of Western Medicine. While many articles continue to admit that the physiology behind the results is still unclear; the benefits are nonetheless promising.


The Research

Cupping was found to reduce neck pain, and was also associated with improvement in function and quality of life [1].
Another systematic review showed evidence for cupping in the management of pain conditions for the low back as well as neck [2].
A third review and meta-analysis came to similar conclusions. The results included a lessening of perceived pain in participants with chronic low back and neck pain, and improved subjective quality of life in almost all cases. In addition, some studies showed lower blood pressure, some found increased metabolism in the local tissue, and some found an increase in the local tissue’s pain threshold post-treatment[3].

All reviews acknowledged the same shortcomings:
1. a lack of standardization of the cupping technique (wet cupping, dry cupping, fire cupping, etc.),
2. duration of application, and 3. placement of cups (on meridian lines, muscular landmarks, trigger points, etc.).

It is hard to draw concrete conclusions with this lack of standardization.
Nevertheless, the results are promising.


Okay, so I know where Cupping came from.
And I know that it has the potential to help me.

But I still have questions!

That’s great! Questions are a wonderful thing.
I have tried to answer the most common questions below,
but if yours are still unanswered, please feel free to Contact Me Directly

  • You mentioned that there are multiple Cupping techniques. What technique do you practice?
    • We practice Massage cupping, also known as dry cupping, here at Summit Therapeutics.
      And you’re right; it is only one of multiple styles. We use a variety of plastic, glass, and silicone cups.
      It involves placing cups in an area and leaving them for a few minutes,
      as well as moving them around on the skin while maintaining suction.
  • Those marks look painful; does Massage Cupping hurt?
    • Massage cupping should NEVER be painful.
  • You say it should never be painful, but I’ve had Cupping before and it hurt.
    • It is possible that you received a different style of cupping, as some are more aggressive than others.
      Again, the cupping you will receive at Summit Therapeutics should NEVER be painful.
      We will be working as a team, communicating regularly, to ensure that we never cross that line.
  • What are those marks?
    • Commonly referred to as “Cupping Kisses,” “Healing Marks,” or even “Octopus Tentacles”
      these reddish/purplish marks are the result of the suction effect on the tissue.
      They are not Bruises.
      Bruises are a result of damage to the blood vessels in an area.
      Massage Cupping is not intense enough to damage blood vessels.
      The suction effect simply pulls inter-cellular blood, lymph, and metabolic waste to the surface.
      Cupping Colours for Fairer Skin Tones Cupping Colours for Darker Skin Tones

      Infographic Courtesy of @kanpobliss
  • How long do the marks last?
    • Cupping marks will vary depending on the person and their tissue health,
      as well as the intensity of the cupping session.
      Some marks are faint and fade within a few days.
      Some are darker and take longer to dissipate.
  • What will the session be like? How often will I need to do it?
    • Every body is different, so every session will vary.
      Guidelines recommend cupping for 5-10 minutes at a time, and scheduling sessions 3-10 days apart.
      Multiple sessions are recommended for best results.
  • What are the contraindications? (When is it not safe to receive Cupping?)
    • There aren’t many contraindications to massage cupping, as it is one of the more gentle styles.
      It is not advised for those with skin irritations or a high fever.
      Pregnant women are advised to avoid cupping on their stomach and low back.
  • What are the side effects of Massage Cupping?
    • Side effects from cupping aren’t very common.
      If any do occur, they usually happen during your treatment, or immediately after.
      These may include lightheadedness, dizziness, sweating, or nausea.
      Drinking plenty of water before and after each session will help with this.


Now that you know what cupping is and what it can do for you,
Book An Appointment

[1] Kim, S., Lee, S.-H., Kim, M.-R., Kim, E.-J., Hwang, D.-S., Lee, J., … Lee, Y. J. (n.d.). Is cupping therapy effective in patients with neck pain? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 2018; 8: e021070. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021070
[2] Kim, J. I., Lee, M. S., Lee, D. H., Boddy, K., & Ernst, E. (2011). Cupping for treating pain: a systematic review. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM2011, 467014. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep035
[3] Moura, C. C., Chaves, É., Cardoso, A., Nogueira, D. A., Corrêa, H. P., & Chianca, T. (2018). Cupping therapy and chronic back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem26, e3094. doi:10.1590/1518-8345.2888.3094