Suctioning Away the Pain—Is Cupping Right for You?

Even though cupping is rooted in ancient Chinese medicine, other parts of the world didn’t recently take notice until Michael Phelps and other Olympians took center stage at last year’s summer Olympics.

Phelps hit the water with large purple rings on his shoulders, and everyone started asking questions. What did he do to himself? Is he injured?

If anyone knows the pain of training or stretching your body to go that extra mile or second, it’s Phelps. So, the world wanted to know—What exactly is cupping and should I try it?

As Dr. Lamya Kamel, DAOM, director of acupuncture at Aligned Modern Health, explained to our running friends at Fleet Feet Chicago, “The cups work in two ways, the first is that a natural vacuum is created that gently pulls at the affected region, providing relief by improving circulation and ‘drawing away’ pain. The second is a byproduct of the suction where superficial blood vessels called capillaries are broken creating a light mark and a flush of blood circulation to the area. After placing glass or plastic cups on pain points such as your back or legs, the cups will create myofascial decompression that essentially pulls on your skin to loosen up the tight fascia tissue below.”

Since fascia is everywhere in the body, tightness in one area can spread, which is where the vacuuming of the cups comes in handy in terms of relieving muscles of stiffness and soreness. Additionally, the five-to-20-minute treatment can aid in injury prevention; increased range of motion and flexibility; reduction of scar tissue; and help with plantar fasciitis, iliotibial band syndrome, and tight hamstrings.

“At Aligned Modern Health we utilize glass pneumatic cups which have varying degrees of vacuum potential to help maximize the positive impact. In addition, the variety of placements and whether or not the cups are moved can help make certain that all problematic areas are targeted and treated with precision,” Dr. Kamel, DAOM, explained.

Athletes seeking a natural competitive edge, turn to cupping treatments for quicker recovery times and faster healing from training. Cupping treatment can be used to address injury, including lingering effects from previous pangs, and can simply be used to relieve muscle soreness. Cupping helps with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation, and deep-tissue massage.

Cupping should be scheduled according to your training and competitive needs. If you have questions about when and how to include cupping in your routine, the acupuncture team at Aligned Modern Health is ready to help you get the most out of your cupping or acupuncture treatment today. Schedule a free consultation with a member of our medical staff to determine which treatments will be most effective for your specific needs.