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What is "Cupping" and all the Hype About?

You may have noticed circular marks on many of the Olympic Athletes, and have asked yourself “what are those marks about?” This technique is called cupping. Cupping is a myofascial technique used in conjunction with other range of motion exercises, stretching, and massage therapies. The technique is applied by placing suction cups or glass cups onto the skin in the area of tightness or discomfort. These cups “suck up” the soft tissue, causing the capillaries (that carry blood) to break. This eventually leads to bruising (which is what everyone is seeing). But this is also what helps loosen the tissue. The idea is to stimulate blood flow through the different layers of soft tissue, therefore making the muscle and tissue more pliable and better able to move without discomfort. Cupping has been completed for centuries, especially in Eastern cultures. So who can apply this cupping technique? Anyone who is trained in using it - physical therapists, acupuncturists, athletic trainers, or massage therapists. There are no known permanent side effects and there is little reason not to try it (except if you don’t want to walk around with round bruises). So what kind of problems is cupping used for?

  1. Chronic pain: to help with blood flow to reduce inflammation and pain

  2. Restricted or tight muscles: to loosen tight muscles, tendons, or joints to allow for more range of motion

  3. Areas of tension: to help with chronic areas of tightness, pain, or overuse by helping to improve blood flow, allowing the muscles to relax and prevent overfiring.

  4. To increase blood flow: to help areas that have chronic scarring or restriction in the soft tissue by improving blood flow to the area.

  5. Many other injuries associated with pain or discomfort

For more information, contact your location physical therapist or go to

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