Cupping therapy is an old therapeutic technique that has been used to treat a number of different aches and pains, and more recently it has become more popular among professional athletes and Olympians. If you’ve ever seen Michael Phelps before a big swim race, you may have noticed some large red circles on his upper back, shoulders and arms. This is the aftermath of cupping therapy, and if it’s good enough for an Olympic swimmer, it may be a helpful technique to consider based on your physical discomfort. Below, we take a closer look at how cupping therapy is performed and the benefits of the technique.
What Is Cupping Therapy?
A version of cupping therapy has been documented in some of the world’s oldest medical textbooks, and the technique has been improved upon to this day. Cupping is performed with the assistance of a physical therapist or similar specialist who places a medical cup over a particular area of the skin. Either by heating the cup or using a suction technique, negative pressure is created inside the cup, which draws the skin upwards towards the cup. The cup is left in place for 3-5 minutes before being removed.
Although concrete scientific research is a bit lacking on the technique, many patients swear by the improvements they’ve made after undergoing cupping therapy. The general sentiment is that cupping can help to:
- Increase blood flow and circulation
- Increase pain threshold
- Improve anaerobic metabolism
- Reduce inflammation
- Improve cellular immunity
- Increase lymph drainage
The main theory is that cupping helps to improve blood flow in your body, which can help with a number of mild to moderate conditions, like muscle strains, muscle spasms and overall muscle function. This improvement in circulation may also help to reduce inflammation that could be contributing to issues like nerve irritation or range of motion limitations.
Cupping therapy is oftentimes a worthwhile therapy to consider alongside other techniques like exercise and physical therapy because it can help to ensure your body is prepared to handle these physical tasks. Physical therapy and exercise will be harder to perform if your muscles are sore or not functioning optimally, so cupping can help prepare your body for some helpful active treatment techniques.
Cupping is also a very low-risk treatment option, as it’s not as invasive as an injection or a surgical procedure. While there is the possibility of some discoloration and bruising at the cupping site, severe reactions to cupping therapy are incredibly rare. That said, cupping is not advised for certain individuals, including those with a history of epilepsy, stroke, hemophilia or psoriasis.
If you’re interested in learning more about cupping therapy, or if you want to see if it could complement your current physical therapy or rehabilitation program, reach out to a team of physical therapists with a great track record of helping patients become a healthier version of themselves. For more information, or for help with a different physical issue, reach out to our team today at (612) 339-2041.
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