Experts Explain Realistic Results from Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy has a deep history dating back to 1500 B.C.

Many experts believe that the ancient Egyptians used this method to treat various ailments, represented in hieroglyphics.

However, cupping therapy gained its popularity from Chinese medicine. 

Cupping is performed by placing small cups on the body with suction force, pulling the skin upward.

Some of the most common areas of the body these specialized cups are placed are on the following: 

  • Back
  • Legs
  • Arms
  • Stomach

It looks wild, leaves bizarre red bruises on your skin, and draws rave reviews from fitness experts:

But does cupping actually get results?

Here are some of the changes you’ll see and feel in your body after just a couple of cupping sessions with a professional:

  • Better workout performance via improved blood flow and circulation
  • Reduced muscle soreness, inflammation, and tightness
  • Relief from chronic fatigue
  • Improved skin health
  • Faster exercise recovery
  • Relaxation and reduced stress

Let’s take a closer look at these benefits and how the results manifest in the way you look and feel.

Increased Blood Flow and Circulation = Better Performance

You may have seen the unique circular bruises that are common with a cupping therapy session.

These bruises are due to the increased blood to the area where the cup provides a vacuum seal to the skin. 

When the skin is pulled upwards into the cup, the skin is separated from the layer of fascia in the body. As a result, the blood will increase locally in the cup’s skin area, creating a bruising effect. 

The improved blood flow is the primary purpose and result you’ll see from regular cupping therapy, and although you won’t see or feel your blood flow, you’ll definitely notice your energy and workouts improve.

With your blood flowing correctly (and even better than normal), you will maintain a healthy flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.

As a result, your organs like your heart, lungs, and brain will work at peak performance. Your muscles will perform better and recover faster and stronger after workouts than they would without the extra blood flow from cupping.

A heart that circulates blood at proper levels will also remove toxins from the body easier.

When speaking to Qigong instructor Dr. Juli Kramer, she noted that cupping therapy increases blood flow and helps lactic acid and other wastes release.

If you lack blood circulation, it’s possible that harmful toxins are not flushing out of your system correctly. Our body’s organs produce waste, and we experience toxins in our environments each day that can stay with us. 

With the help of your lymphatic system and circulatory system, your body can usually discard these toxins on its own.

However, if your blood is not circulating well, it can build up in your body and fat tissues. 

Cupping therapy will draw more blood throughout your body, creating a rush of blood that can wash away these toxins.

However, if you want to see improved blood flow in your body for a sustained period, you need to make other changes, like regular exercise.

Unlike other forms of recovery like massage, Dr. Juli Framer explains that: 

“Cupping should be performed as needed, versus regularly. When done as needed, people will benefit from faster recovery, fewer injuries, and better overall circulation.”

If you feel sore or expect to have an intense workout coming up, you should do a cupping session with a trained professional.

It is essential to go to a certified professional, reducing the risk of injury and mishaps. 

Reduced Muscle Inflammation, Soreness, and Tightness

To understand the results of cupping on muscle inflammation, it’s essential to learn about fascial tissue.

There is a thin layer of this tissue on each muscle that acts as a flexible coating.

The fascia’s purpose is to help muscles glide across each other and reduce impacts on the muscle. While healthy fascia is flexible, that can change when someone is injured, unhealthy, or has poor posture. 

Tight fascia can cause muscular pain, inflammation, and a reduced range of motion.

With as-needed cupping therapy, the fascial tissue will get a long stretch that can aid in recovery and reduce tightness. 

As a doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Dr. Ingego has studied the effects of cupping therapy on the body. When discussing its results on tight and inflamed muscles, he says:

“Cupping allows for an expanded space between the skin and fascia and the fascia and muscle tissue. This allows room for inflammation deeper in the muscles to come to the surface.” 

A cupping session will stretch the area and deliver added nutrients if you have inflamed and sore muscles after working out.

While cupping can look painful with bruises, the therapy rarely hurts. 

In the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, cupping therapy gained popularity as gold medalist swimmer Micheal Phelps had the distinctive bruising of cups.

During his training, the therapy helped soothe his muscles and improve his recovery. 

When asked about the significant bruising seen on his shoulders during the swim, Micheal Phelps noted that: 

“I have done it before pretty much every meet I go to. I just asked for a little cupping yesterday because I was sore.”

The cupping therapy should be soothing unless there is severe inflammation on the skin or within your muscles.

However, the pain will also depend on the type of cupping that someone does. 

There are two main types: dry and wet cupping therapy.

The dry cups involve using the therapeutic cups on dry skin. In wet cupping, the professional will poke holes in the skin before using the cups. 

Most experts recommend starting with the dry cupping before moving on to more specialized forms like wet cupping.

Both of these options will offer help with sore aching muscles and reduce inflammation. 

Relief From Chronic Fatigue

Up until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of scientific data to back up the age-old claim of cupping therapy helping with fatigue symptoms.

However, in a recent study performed in China, there was significant evidence to show its benefits. 

In 5 sessions of cupping treatment, there was an improvement in fatigue syndromes and sleep conditions. The results were even more pronounced for those that had ten sessions done with a professional therapist.

With an estimated 2.5 million people suffering from chronic fatigue in the United States, this is an important discovery.

Chronic fatigue and sleep conditions can drastically affect someone’s daily life. 

While there is no strong link to the direct cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, many people believe psychological stress plays a role.

Fortunately, cupping therapy can reduce stress and promote relaxation. 

The improvements will be short-term but can be sustained with regular treatment, according to the study.

If you are a long-time sufferer of chronic fatigue, trying cupping therapy could make a difference. 

Improved Skin Health

While cupping is often associated with placing cups on large muscle groups, smaller cups can also be placed on the face.

The skincare benefits of cupping have started to gain popularity among estheticians. 

With the increased blood circulation throughout the area, your skin will have a more radiant appearance.

If the cups are placed on a delicate area like the face, they will be smaller and less forceful. You want to promote as much blood flow throughout the skin while also reducing the risk of bruising.

Cupping also promotes what is known as “sterile inflammation” in the body. The cups cause this inflammation, but their benefits are great for the skin.

When the cups are placed on the skin, there will be small microtraumas in the area and tears that need to be repaired.

The area will be flooded with white blood cells and other healing aids that speed up repair. As a result, your skin will look fresher, and there will be a reduction of fine lines.

Cupping is also widely used for healing stretch marks and other scar tissue on the skin.

The added healing aids will speed up the repair process for scarring. 

Faster Recovery From Exercise

Intense workouts can take a serious toll on the body.

The lactic acid builds up in your muscles, resulting in delayed soreness that can last for days after you exercise. 

When discussing the benefits of cupping therapy for workout recovery, Dr.Juli Kramer says:

“Releasing excess internal heat is a good and a bad thing for workout recovery.

Some internal heat is essential to help the muscles function and strengthen. If too much heat has accumulated in a particular area, due to blood stagnation, clearing that heat will lead to faster muscle recovery.”

Finding a practitioner in your area that knows the details of the therapy is crucial for getting the best results.

An experienced therapist will know the key to speeding up recovery, without going too far. 

In traditional Chinese medicine, there is a concept about blood stasis or blood stagnation in the body.

When your blood is not circulating optimally, you will have an imbalance in your body and not feel 100%. 

You will also not recover as quickly if your body is not in peak condition.

Cupping therapy will deliver the added nutrients your sore muscles need to repair themselves and prepare for the next workout. 

(Speaking of recovery, does putting your hands on your hips actually help you catch your breath faster? Click to read!)

Feel More Relaxed and Reduced Stress

We often feel like we don’t have time to relax with our busy work schedules and responsibilities.

When you have a cupping session, the experience can feel like a relaxing massage with the added results from the cups. 

A cupping session typically lasts around 10-20 minutes, with most clinics adding a deep muscle massage afterward.

In this short time, you can eliminate months of stress and tension your body builds up.

Cupping therapy is highly effective at releasing built-up stress in the body and muscle tightness you accumulate in daily life.

Many cupping therapists have clinics with a relaxing spa environment. 

Additionally, if you can’t find the time to visit a dedicated clinic, you can also purchase cups to use at home.

However, Dr.Juli Kramer mentioned that you need to be careful when cupping, saying: 

“If they choose to do cupping on themselves, using silicone vacuum-type cups, they should be very careful. Only cup areas in which you feel pain or soreness. Never do flame cupping on your own.”

You will need the help of another person to secure the cups onto your skin, but this is another way to perform cupping therapy.

However, it’s strongly advised that you do not perform flame cupping at home. 

Wrapping Up

Cupping has a strong history that dates back centuries and is known for its excellent benefits.

Whether you are looking to recover faster from intense workouts or have more youthful-looking skin, cupping can help you achieve your goals.

However, you must work with an experienced therapist in your area. 

An experienced therapist will know all of the ways to get the most out of the cupping session.

To achieve optimal results, you can pair cupping with deep tissue massage for a complete recovery for your body.  

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Hope this helps!