Suction cups can increase blood flow, and could be one way of providing pain relief after an injury.
WHEN I INJURED my back late last year, cupping was not at the top of my list for therapies. I knew I wanted massage, a visit to the chiropractor and probably acupuncture too. While I have some silicone cups I use at home when I feel sore, particularly in my forearms or quads, until recently I had not been cupped professionally.
But during a visit to my chiropractor, Dr. Karlie Causey, to work on my back, she asked whether I was OK trying cupping on my back. I didn’t care what she did, as long as it made my back feel better, which it did.
I had been curious, anyway, to know more about cupping, and how and why it works.
Cupping looks more painful than it is, though it can be very intense. Traditional cupping therapy is used in Chinese medicine to move blood and energy flow. You can use glass cups or plastic, and with heat or a pump, suction is created in the cup and pulls at your tissue.
Most Read Stories
The suction, particularly if left in one place, leaves circular, red marks on your skin. Swimmer Michael Phelps was often seen with red cupping marks during the Rio Olympics last year.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is used to treat ailments ranging from the common cold to arthritis to muscle pain; many acupuncturists offer it. Causey uses it mainly to relieve pain, she says. Research backs up cupping as a tool to treat pain, which is what athletes tend to focus on.
Your skin already has good blood flow, but cupping brings even more blood to the area you’re working on, Causey says; the capillaries break, and cells come in to help clean it out. Cupping is thought to increase circulation and lymphatic drainage; all of that blood flow can help the body heal faster.
Causey uses it frequently for patients who aren’t getting full range of motion, or if a body part feels restricted….