Cupping releases tight fascia. We're on-board!
Traditionally cupping, a 3000 year old Chinese alternative medicine treatment, isn't something a Western medicine minded massage clinic would consider using. After the 2016 Summer Olympics showed athletes with strategically placed large circular bruises this cupping technique gained a lot of exposure. Let's look at the two different sides of cupping, Eastern and Western, and why cupping does have a place in a massage clinic that doesn't practice traditional Chinese medicine.
Cupping. Eastern vs. Western
Cupping Therapy as practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Eastern theory believes energy or "qi" flows along channels in the body commonly called meridians. When a person's qi is blocked pain results.
Glass cups are used with a vacuum like suction either by pumping the air out or by the technique of applying rubbing alcohol to the inside of the cup and lighting it on fire to suck out the air before placing the cup on the client's skin.
Through negative air pressure, cupping breaks the capillaries to let out stagnated blood, which is thought to be impeding the flow of qi. This begins the body's reaction of repair. The glass cup can be left on one area for up to 15 minutes and when removed the cup leaves distinctive circular skin markings. The body's metabolic process rebuilds the "bruised area", absorbing into the bloodstream for waste disposal and ultimately restoring the free flow of qi. The markings created by the cups usually disappear within 5-7 days.
Cupping Therapy practiced with a Western Mindset.
Massage with a Western Medicine mindset is very clinically based with an anatomical focus of origin and insertion of each muscle and how to best create elasticity of tissues and greatest mobility of muscles and joints. Cupping can help with this which is why we've added it to our tool-set.
Using silicone cups which apply enough suction to lift the fascia but not enough to leave the skin bruised, massage therapists can either leave the cup stationary or move it over the skin. A slight amount of oil on the skin allows this movement of the cup in a rotational force when linear applications aren't working. Using the traditional method of hands to deliver massage strokes doesn't offer many options for a concentrated rotational lifting of fascia. This fascial lifting separates the fascia from underlying muscle which allows for deeper massage strokes.
When fascia is tight it can take a lot of time to release it before deeper work can be achieved. For a massage therapist who is working within a one hour time frame, the sooner the fascia releases the better for the outcome of the session. A Massage La Mesa regular client of 7 years, who has chronically tight fascia, had the same success with five minutes of cupping that normally took 20 minutes of hands on massage time. This is great for achieving more during a session.
Cupping assists in trigger point release.
Neuromuscular therapy (Trigger Point Therapy) is a well used modality to reduce pain and increase range of motion. Neuromuscular therapy releases trigger points in a muscle. By placing a silicone cup over the trigger point, or hypersensitive area, and leaving it for 20-40 seconds, a stubborn trigger point may release when hand or finger pressure isn't working.
Is there any science behind cupping results?
Wikipedia is one source which says cupping is poorly supported by evidence and it's effectiveness is hard to determine because of the difficulty of creating a double-blind study. Some say the positive effects of cupping are merely a placebo effect. Although long term reduction in muscle and fascial tightness remains to be seen, massage therapists can benefit from using cupping for individual session goals. When used as a "warm up" or a piece of the total massage session cupping can be a relaxing as well as therapeutic technique.