What is cupping therapy?

Cupping is an ancient technique for treating and increasing blood flow, neck/back pains, and migraines, to name a few. It’s an alternative therapy treatment that originated in China and has since been adopted by Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures. 

It dates back thousands of years, but increasing users worldwide have been adopting it. Famous athletes and celebrities like Michael Phelps and Jennifer Anniston have brought the therapeutic cupping technique and its benefits into the spotlight of the mainstream in recent years in the U.S.

In this blog post, we’ll be sharing what cupping is, its benefits, and how it can help you relieve your body of pain and soreness. Read on.

How does cupping work?

This procedure includes placing warm-to-hot cups on your bare skin to create a vacuum suction effect. The suction helps stimulate blood flow. 

Two different variations of cupping exist, which are wet and dry. During both methods, your therapist will use flammable substances like herbs, alcohol, or paper and set it on fire to heat up the cups to use on your skin. These warm-to-hot cups cause suction which makes your skin rise and redden. Ultimately, this allows for your blood vessels to expand.

Why do people seek cupping?

It’s not just for athletes. It’s for your everyday person who deals with painful headaches, extreme soreness, and high blood pressure, to name a few troublesome problems. 

Anyone can seek this treatment for many purposes, which include relief like:

  • Easing inflammation
  • Increasing blood flow
  • Helping you with body pain
  • Helping you relax and improve your well-being

It’s a type of deep-tissue massage. Read on to get a more extensive list of the benefits of cupping!

What does cupping help treat?

Clinical studies demonstrate cupping therapy as an effective form of pain relief. Other evidence shows treatable conditions. Below is a list that this therapy helps treat.

Cupping helps treat

  1. Fevers
  2. Anxiety
  3. Allergies
  4. Migraines
  5. Neck pain
  6. Muscle pain
  7. Fibromyalgia
  8. Poor circulation
  9. Lower back pain
  10. Knee osteoarthritis 
  11. Persistent coughing
  12. Blood flow stimulation
  13. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  14. Removal of toxins from the body

Are you dealing with any of the listed pains and wonder if cupping will help you? Read on to find out more about the relieving benefits of this art, which will lead to a healthier you.

The 4 benefits of cupping

1. Pain relief

Cupping relieves pain, reduces scar tissue deep within muscles and connective tissues, and decreases swelling and muscle knots. 

Additionally, like several complementary treatments, cupping is supposed to minimize circulating toxins by bringing them into the skin, where they’re more likely to be easily treated and removed.

2. Eases inflammation

Tired of inflammation? Cupping helps your body reduce inflammation through suction. You can think of it as similar to a massage in reverse. This treatment contributes to sterile inflammation.

The vacuum-like suction from the cups causes micro-trauma to the applied areas. This causes your body to release an array of chemicals, fibroblasts, and white blood cells to the afflicted areas, triggering the healing process.

3. Increases blood flow

Cupping helps increase blood circulation near the area where the warm-to-hot cups are placed. This helps soothe muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and boost cell repair. It can also help build new connective tissues and produce new blood vessels in the tissue.

4. Eases chronic fatigue

Have you been dealing with chronic fatigue? According to a 2020 study done by the National Library of Medicine, cupping therapy has greatly relieved fatigue symptoms and improved emotion and sleep conditions.

Is cupping painful?

The treatment itself isn’t painful. All recipients who undergo cupping will undoubtedly deal with bruising, soreness, swelling, and red marks after their session. However, the potential pain level and side effects vary from person to person.

The spots left behind start to fade after several days but can remain for two to three weeks. 

Some report feeling little to no pain, and others report:

  • Nausea 
  • Fainting
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Skin pigmentation

Are there any risks involved?

According to a 2020 study done by Harvard Medical School, experts believe and agree cupping is totally safe. It’s unusual for cupping to cause any severe problems (although, in some instances, skin infections have been reported).

When do you feel the beneficial and healing effects of cupping?

You can immediately feel the benefits in some cases, but they tend to be short-lived, lasting up to a couple of days. When combined with dry needling or acupuncture, cupping can help provide immediate relief and relaxation, which can be helpful when undergoing other therapeutic treatments.

How long do the effects last?

As we mentioned above, the effects of a single treatment can last up to a couple of days. However, to reap the full benefits of cupping, you would need anywhere from 5 to 10 visits. 

How many sessions should you do?

According to Ilkay Zihni Chirali, a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) Practitioner, anywhere from 5 to 10 visits is ideal. However, at least ten sessions are considered an entire course of treatment and will bring out the best results for long-lasting relief.

How long does a cupping session last?

A session can last from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the practitioner, your condition, and how long they leave the cups on your skin. 

Should you try cupping?

According to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, moms-to-be shouldn’t seek this treatment due to the lack of research and knowing little about cupping’s effects on pregnancy. You should also avoid cupping if you have:

  • Bleeding disorders like hemophilia
  • Blood clotting concerns, like deep vein thrombosis or history of strokes
  • Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis
  • Seizures (epilepsy)

If you don’t fall under these categories, seeking cupping treatment may be worth your while. 

Although the cupping technique has been around for thousands of years, there’s still not too much high-quality research done on its short-term and long-term effects. 

Please be sure to talk to your doctor or physical therapist first before seeking this treatment!

Do you want to get in touch with us to know certainly if cupping will help you?

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re dealing with some sort of body pain and want to know if cupping is a treatment that’ll benefit you and help you recover and relieve pain.


If you’d like personal 1:1 care or want to learn more, please contact us at(410) 431-2153, or click here. We’ll get you in touch with one of our dedicated professionals. At True Sports Physical Therapy, your health is always front of mind! It’s our mission to help you get off the sidelines and back on your feet in the fastest and safest way possible.