Cupping Season: What does cupping do and does it really work?

Posted by Ryderwear HQ on

We’ve all heard of the wonders that can arise from a good Epsom salt bath or an agonising foam rolling session on our sore muscles after an intense leg day session.

But have you ever seen your favourite athletes don some crop circle bruises on their bodies and wonder what the heck type of assault they had to endure?

It’s likely that these bruises have come from the traditional Chinese remedy of cupping therapy. Let’s take a look at what the cup this therapy is all about.    
Therapeutic cupping treatment involves warming and placing glass cups on the skin to create a vacuum drawing the tissue up into the cup. This vacuum method increases blood flow and draws fluid to the applied area helping to loosen or form new connective tissue. The force breaks open tiny capillaries (blood vessels) under the skin, which causes discolouration or bruised look. 

Your body reacts to the treatment as if it's healing an injury, so it sends more blood to the affected area to remove toxins and stimulate the healing process. Dry cupping is said to improve local circulation, strengthen muscles and relieve muscle cramps.  

Cupping is primarily used for sore muscles and treats pains commonly in the back, neck, knees and shoulders but some therapists claim it can also be used to treat skin diseases such as acne and hives, as well as asthma, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, migraines and sometimes high blood pressure and digestive complaints.   

While cupping is a relatively low-risk therapy you can still experience some potential side effects. Apart from the noticeable bruises that can last up to two weeks, there is a chance you may experience slight burns from the cup, fatigue, headaches, muscle tension or soreness, nausea, dizziness or skin infections, itching or scarring.

Some studies have suggested that cupping can play a placebo effect. Other studies have suggested that the remedy can provide relief to chronic pain, particularly in the neck and back regions. Unfortunately with this type of remedy, it’s hard to draw definite conclusions as to how effective the treatment is with experts suggesting more research is needed.

It’s recommended that people who suffer from bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, blood clotting problems like deep vein thrombosis or have a history of strokes, epilepsy or frequent seizures should steer clear of this therapy. Pregnant people should also avoid cupping particularly around the abdomen and lower back and children under 4 shouldn’t receive the therapy either. People who also suffer from skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis should also avoid it as it might flare up or irritate their condition.

If this sounds like something you want to explore further, it’s best to give your doctor a heads up before you commence treatment.

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