An ancient form of alternative Chinese medicine that dates back thousands of years, cupping marks have recently surfaced on the backs and shoulders of Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, along with many other athletes at the 2016 Rio games. The perfectly circular bruises have a lot of people wondering what the fuss is all about.
Cupping is all about circulation, bringing blood to areas that it doesn’t normally reach by sucking skin into a cup, which releases connective tissue underneath the skin that wraps around your muscles.
When we are tense and tight, connective tissue begins to twist, but cupping allows the muscles to move freely without restriction. The practice relieves pain, provides a rejuvenating effect, and boosts the immune system. It is often used by Olympians as a preventative measure.
The process of cupping involves heating up small glass cups, putting them on the skin, and then pulling them away from the body to relax muscles by promoting blood flow. And it seems to be benefitting athletes and red carpet regulars alike. Here are nine reasons you should try cupping, too.
1. It provides pain relief
Research has shown that cupping can alleviate pain, including cancer pain. By targeting soft tissue with pressure applied to pain points and areas of swelling, cupping works to increase blood flow and send valuable nutrients and oxygen to tissues. And by using pressure, heat, and suctioning near the injury, practitioners tap into the meridians of the body, allowing energy to pass through the injury.
2. It alleviates cold, cough, and allergy symptoms
Cupping can stimulate the lungs and other vital organs to clear out phlegm and speed up the process of relieving a cold, a cough, or allergy symptoms. Cupping can also improve immune function by pushing blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body. One of the oldest uses for cupping is treating respiratory conditions like pulmonary tuberculosis, utilized long before access to prescriptions came to be.
3. It promotes relaxation
In our fast-paced world, it’s extremely important for us to make time for relaxation, especially since chronic stress can lead to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine asserts that cupping provides relaxation because the cups help lift pressure in tense muscles, offering a relieving sensation similar to receiving a deep tissue massage.
4. It detoxifies the body
When the body has poor circulation, toxins can build up in its tissues, resulting in various health conditions. Cupping works to improve stagnation. Blood forms in the injured area, carrying away toxins, dead cells, and other debris. These elements are then expelled naturally.
5. It heals injuries faster by inducing inflammation
While we know too much inflammation can cause health concerns within the body, a little inflammation is a good thing. A part of the body’s defense mechanism, it works to quicken the healing process of illnesses and injuries. Cupping works to draw blood to the affected area, enabling new blood vessels to be created to aid in healing.
6. It improves skin-related conditions
Cupping has been found to be a useful treatment for a variety of skin conditions. It can help with acne and eczema, reduce skin inflammation, lessen herpes breakouts, and diminish cellulite. To treat acne for instance, the affected area is cupped and nicked in order to remove the breakout. An analysis of studies published in PLOS One discovered that cupping may be even more effective for treating acne than antibiotics, with the studies revealing the cure rate for cupping improved acne better than prescription medications such as tetracycline.
7. It relieves digestive disorders
Cupping is a popular way to improve digestion and reduce symptoms of disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It is thought that the therapy can lower a patient’s stress response, which is highly linked to healthy digestive functioning. Cupping therapy has also been used throughout history to treat people suffering from frequent stomach pains, diarrhea, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal diseases, and water retention.
8. It provides an anti-aging effect
Cupping is also often touted for its ability to provide anti-aging effects such as combating wrinkles. Cupping therapy can actually help you slow down the aging process. As you age, your body processes start to slow down, including your circulation. This causes you to lose muscle tone and develop fine lines and wrinkles. With decreased circulation, you get less oxygen and nutrition to the skin, which then leads to a decrease in collagen production. Cupping treatments can boost your slowed circulation, therefore ensuring your muscles and tissues are saturated with oxygen and nutrient-rich blood flow to promote collagen production.
9. It can treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful and progressive condition that can work against your hand strength and sensation by disabling a key nerve, causing numbness or even total loss of hand function. Cupping, however, may be the answer, as a German study published in The Journal of Pain discovered that the technique was effective for providing temporary relief of pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. In fact, just one session was able to significantly ease pain and symptoms for a week.