Cupping pulls blood to a region to stimulate healing. It is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles. It helps the tissue develop new blood flow and releases anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. It is generally painless, and many say it is more effective than traditional massage for muscle problems as it can work faster and longer than massage alone.
Healthy fascia is elastic and pliable. Stiff fascia restricts the movement of muscles and joints. Cupping therapy decompresses the stiffened fascia to improve its mobility, new blood vessels are formed and the blood and nutrients start to flow to the damaged tissue encouraging it to return to it’s healthy state.
Cupping brings a positive change to scar tissue, and can release the pulling from the surrounding fascia. Fascia can be stretched several feet with cupping.
While massage applies pressure to the muscles and fascia, cupping pulls them outward. Some describe the sensation as opposite of massage. Depending on the amount of suction and the state of the underlying tissues, it can leave circular marks that vary from a light yellow to dark purple. For more information about cupping marks, click here.
In Chinese medicine it is believed the darker the marks, the more stagnation of qi and blood. Stagnation leads to pain and dysfunction or imbalance within tissues.
From a Western standpoint, cupping creates more space in between the tissue layers to get rid of dead cellular debris, excess fluids and toxins, and breaks up scar tissue. The marks are caused by this debris being pulled up and deposited under the skin; which is actually the most effective place for the lymphatic system to drain it away.
Cupping for mastectomy patients:
Some breast cancer patients need to have lymph nodes removed, either because the cancer has spread to them, or because the lymph nodes have been damaged by radiation therapy. Normally, lymph nodes help filter and remove fluid from the body. When the lymph nodes are removed, the fluid can collect in the adjacent limb and cause painful swelling. The more scar tissue that has formed, the more work will be required to release the layers. It is possible that there will always be some adhesions between the layers.
Cautions: Cup marks may take a few days to a week to fade completely. Keep the cupped area protected from extreme changes in temperature directly after treatment. Cupping should not be used on the low back or abdomen of pregnant women. Cupping is contra-indicated if you have thin or damaged skin, or if you are taking blood thinners.