With the Olympics well underway and our attention transfixed on some of the most decorated athletes in the world, we can’t help but to ask ourselves: “Why is everyone covered in circle-shaped bruises?” Four years ago at the London Olympics, we were explaining the benefits of the bright-colored Kinesio tape adhered to the athletes’ bodies. This Olympics, cupping is taking the main stage; however, our office has been using this particular technique for quite some time with excellent results.
What is Cupping?
Cupping, a therapeutic practice rooted in Chinese medicine, is a type of soft tissue mobilization where cups are placed on an individual’s skin and are held in place with negative pressure, allowing the skin to rise or suck up into the cups. This pressure can be achieved with a vacuum device, heating element, or by squeezing the cups and placing them on the skin. The cups can be held in one spot over a muscle while the individual tries to move that muscle, or the cups can be moved up and down the length of the muscle as a type of massage.
Muscular tension can negatively affect an athlete or patient’s muscle performance and can cause pain. Cupping treatments target the tense muscles and surrounding soft tissues to help increase circulation to the area and remove toxins. Visible circular bruising is a common result from the technique, but will usually disappear after one week. Depending on the individual’s sensitivity, treatments can range from comfortable to painful; however, the intensity of the suction can be adjusted to each person’s tolerance.
Although it will likely not make you an Olympic athlete, cupping techniques can decrease pain and improve mobility and muscle performance. Whether you are a recreational or competitive athlete, or seeking tension relief from your day to day tasks, cupping is one of the many tools and techniques that a physical therapist to relieve muscle tension and decrease pain. Call us today to schedule an evaluation to see if cupping and physical therapy can help you!