You may have heard of cupping, or seen the circular marks on famous athletes like Michael Phelps. Cupping therapy is an ancient treatment used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, where glass or plastic cups are placed on the skin to create suction.  The action lifts skin, muscle, and connective tissue up into the cup, promoting many different benefits to health.

1. Promotes flow
Cupping promotes flow within the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Increasing the circulation of blood brings in new oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and tissues. This encourages healing in the area. By stimulating the flow of lymph, cellular debris and and metabolic wastes are carried away. This creates an optimal environment for healing to take place.

2. Relax tight muscles
The suction created by cupping provides a sustained stretch of underlying muscle and fascia. This can sometimes be referred to as a “reverse massage”, where the tissues are lifted as opposed applying pressure downwards into the muscle.

3. Detox
The skin is an organ of detoxification. Cupping is used to draw toxins out of the skin and underlying tissue. This process of detoxification is what creates the circular marks on the skin after a cupping treatment.

4. Benefits the skin
When it comes to skin, collagen supplies the firmness, and elastin provides the elasticity. As we age, our skin produces less collagen and the elastin fibers break down – leading to wrinkles and fine lines. Cupping promotes the production of new collagen and elastin fibers that work to tighten and tone the skin. Also, by increasing blood flow to the surface, our skin gets new oxygen delivered and carries away metabolic waste. This helps achieve healthy, glowing skin!

5. Break up scar tissue
A scar is formed when our bodies build a new mesh-work of unorganized fibers after tissue is affected by trauma. Unorganized fibers are less functional, have reduced flexibility, and decrease proper blood flow to the area. Cupping is an effective treatment for breaking down scar tissue and adhesion formations.

The color and pattern of the marks indicate the level of stagnation in the area. Marks that are light pink represent healthy blood flow and little toxin build up. Red discoloration indicates moderate stagnation, while dark purple suggests significant blood stagnation and toxin build up. With subsequent treatments and proper lifestyle support in place, discoloration should begin to decrease in the area.

Cupping is a safe and effective treatment for various health concerns and for those looking to improve overall wellness.

Dr. Stephanie Liebrecht, BSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor