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  • Writer's pictureChristina

What is Cupping anyways?

Prone female patient receiving cupping therapy on her upper back.
If you've never had cupping this might look weird or even painful, but trust me - this feels awesome. Image by Katharine Hanlon on Unsplash.

Cupping has been used for thousands of years. It is commonly used throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe in both a clinical setting and in homes. It is often used in conjunction with Acupuncture and is perhaps the tool I reach for the most, other than my Acupuncture needles.

What is Cupping used for?

  • Neck and Shoulder Pain

  • Low Back and Sciatic Pain

  • Headaches and Migraines

  • Stress

  • Respiratory Issues

  • Other types of musculoskeletal pain or tension

  • Facial Rejuvenation

How does it work?

The practitioner will use cups made of glass, silicon, plastic, or bamboo and apply them to the desired area after creating some suction. I use silicon and traditional glass fire cups in my office. The silicon cups are squeezed nearly flat before placing on the skin to create suction while the glass cups are heated with a small torch which consumes the oxygen within the cup creating a bit of a vacuum before being safely placed on the skin. The suction or negative pressure works to lift and separate the different layers of tissue: skin, fat, fascia, and muscle to allow better circulation to these areas. Some techniques used with cupping are similar to myofascial techniques in massage therapy to relax and release tight or overworked muscles.

The practitioner can choose to leave the cups in place, called stationary or static cupping, or to glide them along the skin using a slick of massage oil, called sliding or moving cupping. I love the feeling of sliding cups as they move over muscles, feeling much like a deep tissue massage. I often will start with sliding cupping and then "park" one or two cups over a couple sweet spots for a few additional minutes to get the best of both worlds. Another dynamic technique with cupping is myofascial release where the cups are stationary on a particular muscle and then the patient is asked to move that area through its range of motion, bending and stretching the muscle while it is under pressure. This technique can feel a little more intense but can be very effective.

What does it feel like?

I might be biased, but I think it feels wonderful! :) I particularly like the feeling of sliding cupping especially over the neck, shoulders, and upper back which feels a lot like a great massage though more pulling sensation than pushing. The strength of the suction is variable and so can adapt to different preferences. Some people prefer stronger suction for more of a deep tissue massage sensation, while others prefer a lighter touch. I recently had a patient who insisted they didn't like cupping based off of a previous perhaps too aggressive experience at another office. After convincing them to give it one more try with me and using a gentler technique they are now converts!

Is it safe?

Yes, for most people! Only in a few instances would it not be recommended, for example if you have a bleeding disorder. Cupping will leave marks on the skin that look like bruises for a few days or up to a week after treatment, however this is not harmful and is never permanent. The cups themselves are washed and disinfected with high level hospital grade disinfectant in between uses to prevent any cross contamination.

Wait a minute, you said "Face" right??? Cupping my face will somehow make me look more attractive?

Yes indeed! A key component of my Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatments involves sliding cupping on the face. We use special small cups and work quickly so as not to leave any bruise-like markings on the delicate facial skin. The cups help to relax habitually tight muscles like the masseter (jaws) and corrugator (forehead), and stimulate underworked facial muscles to help lift the brow, cheeks, and jawline. Additionally this type of cupping works as a lymphatic drainage technique to depuff the face, especially noticeable around the eyes. The increased blood flow from sliding cupping helps the Facial Acupuncture treatment work more effectively to stimulate collagen production and smooth wrinkles. You will see a noticeable difference immediately after just a few minutes of Facial Cupping!

A young Asian woman lying down and smiling as she is receiving a relaxing facial massage from a female practitioner.
The Facial Rejuvenation Acupuncture treatment is not to be missed!

If all of this sounds intriguing and you've never tried cupping before - give us a call at 914-246-0148! We'd love to provide you with more information and talk about how this treatment along with Acupuncture or some of our other therapies might work for you. In the meantime don't mind me if I sneak away now and go do a little cupping on my own shoulders after typing away on this blog post! ;)



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