When I tell most people I have incorporated Chinese cupping into my rehabilitation program, I can sense that they are somewhat incredulous. After all, I am such a seemingly logical person who makes decisions based on scientific evidence, why on earth would I engage in something that many overlook since it stems from the negative connotations of “alternative medicine”. However, just because something is not used as a form of treatment in typical western medicine practices today, does not mean it isn’t effective. Historically speaking, everyone from the ancient Chinese and the ancient Greeks (including Hippocrates) used cupping in attempts to fix internal disease and structural problems. Nowadays cupping has made a comeback in places such as massage and acupuncture, and even sports rehabilitation for injuries. I have personally seen it be utilized to help prevent knee injuries in MMA fighters (knee injuries tend to be quite common in all sports, not just MMA).
While typical myofascial releases (ie: foam rollers, lacrosse balls on trigger points) targets compression, cupping is essentially myofascial decompression. Think of it as inverted myofasical release. It helps aid in releasing the restrictive tissue that results in sub-optimal compensation by stretching out the fascia. It also increases blood flow as well as helps with mobility and flexibility. Over time, when coupled with compression myofasical releases and corrective exercise it can help provide pain relief. I like to use cupping as a precursor to (compression) myofascial release a couple of times a week since it penetrates the superficial layers and sends blood flow to the region which helps promote more of a release to the restrictive tissue.
OTHER NOTES: Bruising does occur for many people. I remember doing this at the gym and one of the guys was like “Why are you giving yourself hickeys, can’t you find a nice young man to do that for you?” HAHAH 😛 I would be aware of that before experimenting with cupping, in case you are having an important business meeting or something and don’t want people to make the wrong assumptions. I wouldn’t use cupping if you’re anemic, pregnant, or have cardiovascular diseases. I’m not a doctor just someone documenting their experiences. So if you have any abnormal conditions and want to take up cupping I would recommend asking your doctor if it’s okay before trying it and seeing a licensed acupuncturist who has expertise in that field.
I believe that if something is has positive effects, it should be added to my arsenal, regardless if it is an ancient therapeutic method, or a new revolutionary technique. If it provides value, it’s worthwhile. And I have felt the positive effects from cupping so that’s why continue to do it. Since cupping my lower back pain has reduced, and the upper trapezius pain I felt when doing Muay Thai sparring has significantly diminished. ALSO ladies, cupping is also shown to reduce cellulite, which is perfect for swimsuit season. Since a cupping set runs around $25 on Amazon, I’d say it’s a worthwhile investment! In terms of our injury rehab we should implement techniques that work, rather than just blindly doing what everyone else does….that’s living intentionally not habitually 🙂