South Central WI Archive
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2010
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What is cupping therapy?

When you look through the services or techniques that a massage therapist might offer, you might come across cupping. Unless you have had this particular therapy done, you are probably like most thinking, what is it?

According to Wikipedia, cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps).

Cupping is the inverse of massage. Instead of applying pressure to an area, like massage, cupping pulls the skin up. Cupping can be done all on its own as a stand-alone treatment or can be done in conjunction with other therapies.

You are probably wondering how this might be helpful or beneficial to you. Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. You are about 70 trillion cells all humming in relative harmony; fascia is the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey and wet proteins that hold them all together in their proper placement. We are covered in fascia from head to toe, our organs, muscles, and some fascia is found in the body in thick sheets. Just like muscles, you can get restrictions in your fascia. Cupping is a technique that can help release fascial restrictions, relieving pain, and increasing range of motion. Because fascia is everywhere throughout our body, we can feel relief in a totally different area than the area being worked because everything is connected.

So now that you know one of the uses of cupping, let’s go over how it actually works. No matter what type of cups used, the purpose of the cup is to create a suction. When placed on the skin, there is a vacuum or suction created and the skin is lifted up. Blood vessels expand and the skin may redden, some of this varies with each individual person, and the health of the tissue underneath it. Bringing blood to an injured or unhealthy area promotes healing. A cup may be left on one spot for 5-10 minutes at a time. There may be some mild discomfort in the area that the cup is on, but usually lessens as time goes on. Again, this is going to vary with the health of the area being treated. The side effect of cupping may be that there is a bruise left at the site of the cup, which can last for a few days.

Cups can be applied to one area, or to treat a larger area, and gliding can be used with the cups. A cup is applied in one spot and glided back and forth from point A to point B several times. This again can be uncomfortable, and may leave a rug burn like mark as well, depending on the health of the area treated and the individual person’s skin.

The benefit of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove “heat” and pull out the toxins that linger in your body’s tissues. It often works wonders for patients with the flu, colds, coughs, back and muscle pain, poor circulation, anxiety, red itchy skin conditions (though cups are not applied to inflamed areas), allergies, fevers, aches, and a myriad of other pains. Athletes have been seen using cupping therapy for healing injuries, as well as celebrities turning to cupping for their healing benefits. Many find cupping to be as relaxing as a massage. I often have clients who have a “sticky” area and request to be cupped, because they know the benefits of it. If a client has had a chronic issue, which has not been responding to just massage, I will often add some cupping to take the healing to a different level.

Cupping is not exclusive to traditional Chinese medicine. Variations of this treatment were used by ancient Egyptians, North American Indians, early Greeks, and in other Asian and European countries. Cupping therapy was recommended by Hippocrates, the man whom many consider to be the “Father of Modern Medicine,” in his guide to clinical treatment.

Whatever your reason for trying cupping, you will be amazed by this simple, yet effective, therapy that has been practiced for thousands of years worldwide.

Tracy Jobe, LMT, NCBTMB

Tracy Jobe, a licensed massage therapist and Reiki Master, specializes in therapeutic massage, Reiki, cranio-sacral, Access Consciousness Bars, raindrop technique, cupping, BioMat and restoring body and mind. Tracy owns Restorative Massage LLC, 6425 Odana Road, Suite 1B in Madison. For more information, call 608-628-0045, email [email protected] or visit and

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