What is Cupping?

So this year, with the new clinic opening I wanted to start thinking outside the box a little.  How to heal someone’s aches and pains is always forefront in my mind and its easy to advise to take a course of anti-inflammatories if people are still having problems from an injury.

However, if we look back to the Rio Olympics, there was much talk (and photos) of some of the athletes, Michael Phelps, in particular having big red circular marks over their backs.  Suddenly, this became big news and therefore, fashionable.  But cupping has been around for years…from as far back as 5000 years ago in Egypt.

In its simplest form, cupping is a practice where someone places various ‘cups’ on different parts of the body.  Using fire or a pump gun (I choose the pump gun as can be a little clumsy at times which isn’t the best with a patient and a flame), a suction effect is created, raising the skin and drawing the blood to the surface, hence the discolouration left on the skin.  It is used commonly to treat swelling, chronic pain, inflammation, rheumatism, migraines…the list goes on and on.

In Chinese medicine there is much emphasis placed on where the cups are placed and how this relates to the internal organs and whether there is imbalance.  However, I am no expert on Chinese medicine and would never pretend to be.  But from a pure sports massage perspective, cupping is very effective to release restrictions in fascia (a band of connective tissue that encloses and separates muscles) and scar tissue within the muscles.  It is hugely influential in increasing blood flow to an area that needs it, which brings about healing, as all that blood has the lovely oxygen and nutrients in it needed to start repairing.

I also LOVE using cupping with silicone cups during a deep tissue massage…slightly different than traditional dry cupping, as I use the cups to massage with in conjunction with my hands.  But its an interesting sensation because the skin is being pulled up part of the time and then massaged deeply.  From my work with some of the European Tour golfers this is being used more and more on the circuit.

Cupping shouldn’t be done more than once a week ideally and it is my job to make sure the marks are assessed and what discolouration is happening…so you have to have trust in your therapist.

But, my point is…don’t be scared of cupping…yes, the suction may leave discolouration on your back for a few days so best not done just before getting your bikini on or your speedos out on holiday (unless you happen to be Michael Phelps of course)…but it really can help with speeding the healing process up for chronic back pain.

Just come and give it a try…whats the worst that can happen…at least you know I’m not going to set fire to the room :-)


phil hill