Ever since Michael Phelps made his Olympic appearance with the trademark “hickey” marks, cupping has become increasingly popular. But what is it and what exactly does it do?
What Is It?
Cupping has been around for a longgggg time, with evidence for its use all the way back to 1550 BC. It involves the placement of cups (glass or plastic) onto the body, which are then suctioned (with the use of fire or an air pump) to lift the treated area into the cups. From there, the cups can either be kept in place (static) or moved around (dynamic).
What Does It Do / What Is It Used For?
Cupping acts as a form of myofascial release (a way of loosening up fascia around muscles), similar to foam rolling. It can be used for a number of reasons, including pain-relief, decreasing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and improving range-of-motion. Feeling like a reverse deep tissue massage, the overall goal is to help loosen up and support the healing process of the area being treated.
Is There Any Evidence For It?
Like all forms of medicine, there is always an initial research gap – meaning that treatments that show potential positive benefits still have to undergo the research to fully back its use. Since this practice has recently started to become more mainstream, research is just now starting to come out. Below are some potential benefits that studies have found so far:
- Decreased pain in patients with nerve root cervical spondylosis (1)
- Decreased pain and increased quality of life in patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain (2)
- Decreased pain and increased functionality in patients with low back pain (3)
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Written by Dr. Brandon Buchla, DC, CSCS
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