What’s up with the cup?

Cupping gained popularity during the summer Olympics when we saw circular bruises all over Michael Phelps in  2016. So, was it just a fad or is it still a relevant treatment? Cupping has a long history with references going back as far as ancient Egypt. It is used all over the world for a wide variety of ailments, with many different techniques.

In the realm of physical therapy we use cupping to help stretch the muscles and tissues beneath the skin. The pull caused by the cup will facilitate blood flow to that area to address tightness and soreness in the muscles.

There are many different types of cups, but usually plastic or silicone cups are used in the physical therapy clinic. These types use air pressure to pull the skin up into the cup. As the skin and underlying muscles and tissues are drawn upward, blood is pulled to the surface releasing adhesions and trigger points in muscles as well as bringing more oxygen to the area to promote healing. The cups come in many different sizes to allow treatments to any body part.

Cupping is a great supplement to traditional therapy as it helps to decrease muscle tension, soreness and improves mobility of tissues to allow increased range of motion. There are different techniques that can be utilized with therapeutic cupping, most commonly the cups are placed over the area of pain or tension and left in place anywhere from 5-10 minutes.

Additionally, the cups can be placed on the areas of tightness and then the restricted or painful movement can be performed. While the cup is in place it stretches the tissues throughout the range of motion and often allows improved motion with less pain, promoting correct movement patterns.

Lastly, the cups can be placed and then moved in different directions while maintaining the pull along the muscle, this is especially useful to stretch bigger muscle groups or address larger areas of pain. Whatever the treatment technique, cupping has been used for many years to help improve mobility and promote return to normal movements. They are a great supplement to therapy to decrease pain and irritation with activities in normal daily life as well as with sports and recreational activities.

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