Cupping: Basics and Benefits - Laurelhurst Chiropractic

When it comes to massage therapy there are many different modalities we can implement to help speed and aid in the healing process. One of our favorites and most asked about treatments here in Portland, Oregon is cupping! Cupping can be a stand alone treatment or easily integrated into a relaxation or deep tissue massage.

So, what exactly is cupping?

Like most Chinese healing techniques, cupping, or suction therapy, dates back thousand of years. According to the International Cupping Association the first mention of suction therapy is dated back to around 300 CE. So it’s safe to say massage therapy and it’s different modalities have been around a while.

While most manual therapies use downward pressure to alleviate muscle adhesions, cupping uses suction to pull tissues up. As an analogy (we like those around here) think of a dirty rug for a minute. You could use spot treatment to press into the rug fibers, sweeping away any debris, like a more traditional massage. Or you could use a vacuum to suck dirt up and away, like cupping. Both techniques can be effective ways to clean but use different approaches. Similarly, traditional manual massage therapy and cupping both work to unwind tension and loosen adhesions in the body.

Cups may be held in one place “static”, or slid along the skin like a moving vacuum called “gliding” or “dynamic.” Cupping therapy should not be painful! It can be deep and therapeutic or gentle and relaxing depending on the patient’s preference and desired result of the treatment. Here at Laurelhurst Chiropractic our licensed massage therapists are trained in a variety of modalities. We can help you find which technique works best for you and your body.

Why we use it?
  • Stimulates blood flow.
  • Loosen muscles.
  • Relieves pain.
  • Increases flexibility/range of motion.
  • Reduces stress.

Many patients report that incorporating cupping into their massage therapy helps alleviate migraines, anxiety, fatigue, and more. In China, cupping is often used to treat lung disorders such as asthma. Many types of practitioners use suction therapy for a wide range of benefits: myofascial release, lymphatic drainage, decreasing muscle tension, hormone balancing, body detoxes, and energy balancing, just to name a few.

Wait, what about those marks left after treatment?

The most off-putting and misunderstood part of cupping therapy is the markings sometimes left behind afterwards. These colorful displays are normal and should not be painful! However, they are NOT BRUISES, bruising is caused by trauma to the body resulting in ruptured blood vessels. Cupping marks, on the other hand, are caused by stagnant blood, fluids, and toxins being pulled out of areas of injury or compromised circulation.

When muscles are injured bleeding occurs deep in the tissue and the inflammation process is set off to assist the body. This beautiful process works by getting excess waste out of the area and new fresh fluids rushing in to aid in recovery. The body doesn’t always fully clean up after itself during this stage and metabolic waste can linger below the surface.

This is where cupping and massage therapy comes in! The negative pressure from cupping pulls these waste products up and flushes out. Helping to facilitate new fresh blood coming in and aiding with final clean up. The vacuum formed by cupping brings old stagnate blood and cellular waste to the surface and away from the affected tissue. Now fresh, healthy new blood and fluid can circulate to the area bringing in fresh oxygen, blood cells and nutrients to the area.

Where there is stagnant blood, lymph, cellular waste and toxins, cupping marks are usually left behind following treatment. This means stagnant fluids have been flushed from deeper layers to the surface aiding in recovery. The color and pattern of the marks depends on the level of stagnation in the area. Discoloration following treatment ranges and usually lasts anywhere from 3 days to a week. Sites where there is old trauma and injury will most likely need multiple treatments. We find the areas lighten in color as these old fluids are moved and flushed from the area. 

Cupping and Chiropractic

While the marks that sometimes follow cupping may appear painful, the treatment is actually quite enjoyable and relaxing. Like other massage modalities, cupping soothes the nervous system, creating a parasympathetic “rest and digest” response. Inducing deep relaxation makes for a more effective, gentle and comfortable spinal adjustment by Dr. Phil. Cupping also quickly relaxes muscles and connective tissue when applied in between vertebrae. These tiny tissues are not always easily accessible by traditional massage therapy techniques making cupping a great addition to any treatment.

Cupping is just one of the many techniques we offer and can be included with any massage therapy, chiropractic and acupuncture appointment. The massage therapists at Laurelhurst Chiropractic work closely with Dr. McCary so you receive customized treatment that addresses your specific soft-tissue needs. 

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