Cupping gets a little publicity every now and again – celebrities and athletes sporting big ugly round marks that look like they came off second best in a fight with a vacuum cleaner. The most common reaction being – I’d never do that, it looks like it HURTS!!!! Well let me tell you brother, you are MISSING OUT. Cupping releases bound up, tight, stubborn muscles like nobody’s business, and the feeling is like a glorious sucking out of all that built up tension, leaving you feeling more relaxed and free than you’ve been in, well, a darn long time.
Cupping is a magical thing that has been around for centuries. Used in cultures all over the world – even in Greek and Roman times – to loosen tight muscles, draw out toxins, help fight colds, flus, and even those hanger-on viruses that just won’t get the hint.
Now don’t get me wrong, cupping can be a bit of a menace in the hands of the wrong person. The most common mistake being the one strength fits all approach – MEGA-STRONGGGGGG – leaving people strutting about like black and blue peacocks and feeling completely wiped out. For some people these marks are going to happen regardless – when muscles are badly tight and bound up or injuries are old, even a light application can leave a nasty dark mark – but for most of us, if cups are applied with consideration of your body type and condition, marks should be much less angry, or even not there at all. And we do prefer the term marks, rather than bruises, because bruises are caused by injury! Science isn’t exactly pouring resources into finding out what those marks actually are, but an article by cupping guru Bruce Bentley sites a case from the Australian Institute of Sport where a cupping mark from an athlete was sampled and found to contain old blood, “presumably bound to a muscle and drawn to the surface”. Essentially it is widely felt that cupping draws out old blood, toxins and pathogens lodged in the skin and muscle, so you’re basically using the vacuum to ‘clean’ the area.
As a practitioner I have found cupping invaluable for musculoskeletal work in particular. My favourite practice is that of ‘sliding cups’ performed using silicon cupping vessels – a modern technique created and taught by the aforementioned Bruce Bentley. When these cups are moved very slowly over a tight muscle group they appear to help reset the fascia, restore blood flow and allow the muscles to breathe and relax. This technique is ahhh-mazing for the treatment of musculoskeletal injury and misuse, and often from the first treatment clients are forgetting the pain they were once in. You really need to check it out for yourself. Whether you are hoping to detox, shake off that virus or fix that aching back, cupping could be just what your body is looking for.