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What is Cupping?

What is Cupping?

People have used cupping for thousands of years to ease back pain, neck pain, headaches and other problems. Today, physical and occupational therapists at Campbell County Health in Gillette, Wyoming use it to help with muscle tension and releasing scar tissue, which can lead to a reduction in pain.

Chinese medicine practitioners have been using cupping for thousands of years; it is designed to help the body reduce inflammation by using suction. Cupping uses negative pressure with the goal of separating different layers of tissues for improved mobility and pain reduction. It’s like a massage, but different (done in reverse).

The cups used in cupping can be glass, plastic or silicone, and can range in size from three-quarters of an inch to four inches in diameter. These cups are placed on the skin while air is removed by a pump to create a small vacuum—pulling the skin up. During cupping, the skin under the cup can turn from dark red to purple. Some patients report tension on the skin resulting in discomfort; however, pain is relieved when pressure is reduced. Intensity of treatment depends on the patient’s tolerance to the suction.

“Think of cupping as an extension of the therapist hand—it allows for treatment on deeper structures,” says Kasi Jensen, DPT, Physical Therapist at CCH Rehabilitation Services. “Cupping is often used with other interventions such as massage, dry needling, and exercise.”

Kasi said that different cupping techniques can include static (cups left in place), dynamic (pull cups across treatment area with help from lotion), and mobilization with movement (cups are static and patient moves through different ranges of motion).

Cupping helps to alleviate pain by increasing blood flow to an area, reducing scar tissue, helping to improve tissue mobility, and can interrupt pain signals (pain gait theory).

Some individuals can experience skin sensitivity and bruising after cupping. The bruising is typically done where the cup was placed, and not painful as blood is being pulled the surface of the skin as opposed to a deep bruise.

Like any intervention in physical therapy, the therapy used is based on the patient’s medical history, medications, and current presentation.

Cupping is one of various treatment options that might be part of your care at Campbell County Health Rehabilitation Services in Gillette, Wyoming. Our compassionate and experienced staff helps each patient, in a team-oriented atmosphere, reach their goals. Call 307.688.8000 to make an appointment, or visit www.cchwyo.org/rehab to learn more.