When you think of a massage, it’s pretty typical to think of the traditional long, slow strokes and gentle kneading that most of us have experienced. A cupping massage may not initially sound as appealing. However, there are a wide variety of benefits to a cupping massage that can help address different conditions or issues. Is a cupping massage right for you?
Although cupping massages seem to be a new trend, they’re actually a type of alternative medicine that can be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, details how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C. The text includes descriptions of cupping therapy to help accelerate the healing process of a variety of conditions that included fever, pain, vertigo, and menstrual imbalances. In China, an early description of cupping is found in the Bo Shu (an ancient book written on silk), which was discovered in a tomb of the Han Dynasty. Other ancient texts mention Chinese medicine cupping to treat chronic cough, poisonous snake bites, and pulmonary tuberculosis. Ancient Persian texts detail the use of wet cupping in the treatment of disease. Wet cupping is similar to dry, but may include the removal of blood via small incisions in the skin.
What exactly does a cupping massage involve?
During a cupping massage, your therapist will light a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper in a cup. When the cup is warmed and the fire goes out, the warmed cups are applied to your body. These heated, upside-down cups produce a gentle suction, also known as negative pressure, on those specific areas. The cupping increases blood circulation in the skin and muscles, creating a change in the connectivity, in turn helping the tissue to heal and alleviating related chronic pain. The cups are generally left in place for up to 15 minutes. The massage therapist will then administer oil or lotion to facilitate smooth, gliding movements with the cups. Another method of cupping uses a rubber pump instead of fire to create a vacuum. Other therapists use silicone cups, which can move from place to place on your skin to produce a massage-like effect.
Other types of cupping include:
- Needle Cupping - a needle is placed into an acupressure point, and the cup is placed over it
- Moxa Cupping - involves lighting the mugwort herb, using it to heat acupoints to break blockages of energy or blood
- Water Cupping - using boiling or very hot water and rubbing the jar (boiling water inside) over the skin
- Wet Cupping - requires making a small scratch of the skin, so that a small amount of blood is drawn before the suction. (Peak Day Spa does not offer wet cupping.)
- Flash Cupping - where suction of the skin is created for 1-2 seconds and quickly withdrawn
- Herbal Cupping - where an herbal tincture is applied to the inside of the cup
- Aquatic Cupping - performed with the client in water
The procedure is intended to get fluids moving through the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, stagnation or a lack of movement of bodily fluids or energy is believed to be the root cause of pain and health problems. Cupping massage is often paired with traditional massage or acupuncture depending on the client’s needs.
What are the cups made of?
The cups may be made of:
When is cupping therapy not appropriate?
If the client has:
- Dermatitis or broken skin of any kind
- Heart problems
- Kidney disease or failure
- Is pregnant
- Severe edema
- Severe allergic reactions
Benefits of Cupping Massage
Cleansing of toxins
In the past, cupping was thought to purge the body of illness. Today, however, cupping is believed to purge the body of toxins that can cause illness. The modern diet and lifestyle contribute to the accumulation of many types of toxins within the body and cupping can help your body release them. The targeted blood flow resulting from the heat and suction of a cupping massage encourages the body to flush out built-up toxins through the lymphatic system.
The suction from the cups increases circulation in the areas being targeted, and this additional blood flow can assist in soothing muscle tension. It can also encourage cell repair and help reduce the appearance of cellulite and facilitate better joint movement.
Improvement of varicose veins and spider veins
Varicose veins are bluish, bulging veins sometimes visible on the legs and feet, especially as we age. Varicose veins develop when the valves inside the vein aren’t effectively pushing the blood from the muscle back to the heart. As a result, blood congestion forms, causing the veins to bulge and twist. Cupping reduces this congestion by bringing fresh blood flow and oxygen to the area. The most significant improvements are seen after a series of cupping sessions.
The parasympathetic nervous system is engaged by the gliding motion of the cups across the skin, encouraging relaxation and release of tension.
Reduction of stretch marks and scars
Increased blood flow from cupping promotes lymphatic circulation. This increase in circulation assists in purging excess fluid from the body (edema), which in turn helps in body contouring and breaks up dense scar tissue, reducing the appearance of scars. The increased blood flow also reduces the appearance of stretch marks.
Clients with congestion caused by allergies, an upper respiratory infection, bronchitis, or asthma can benefit from cupping, as the suction from the cups breaks up and encourages the body to expel congestion. Facial cupping can be utilized to help unblock the sinuses. For chest congestion, cupping can draw oxygen-rich blood and lymph toward your lungs. Cups are usually placed on your back. However, they can also be placed on your chest. Your massage therapist will gently glide them in an upward motion to facilitate the movement of the lymph fluid.
Cupping can clear colon blockages and aid digestion
Cupping engages the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing blood flow to the digestive tract. In addition, cupping in the abdominal area can stimulate your digestive organs and encourage the contractions that push food through your digestive tract. A cupping massage can help clear colon blockages, as well. It can also help relieve problems with indigestion.
Other Benefits of cupping
- Promotes the release of stress and tension, relaxing chronically tight muscles
- Increased circulation promotes clearer skin and helps reduce acne
- Relaxation of tensions held in connective muscle tissue
Curious about cupping massage?
Give Peak Day Spa a call. Our therapists have been trained and certified in safe and effective cupping techniques and are happy to answer your questions. You can opt for a cupping-only session or add cupping to a therapeutic massage.