Return To Blog

Cherry Creek Wellness Center Explains "Cupping" and Who Uses It

August 12, 2016

If you’ve been watching the 2016 Summer Olympics, chances are you’ve noticed the same thing the rest of us have been noticing. There’s a new phenomenon cropping up on the athletes -- especially on the swimmers, such as superstar Michael Phelps. What is it? Cupping! Cherry Creek Wellness Center is happy to explain a little bit more about what cupping might be used for with Colorado physical therapists, and why.

The marks left behind by cupping are what raised eyebrows this past weekend. They’re circular, deep purple bruises. A slew of news articles reported the concept of “cupping” as an alternative form of therapy, piquing the interest of many. The process stems from traditional Eastern medicine, utilizing just a few tools: a vacuum pump and a plastic or glass cup. When you place a cup over the sore muscle in need of rapid recovery, you then use the pump to create a vacuum seal, drawing blood to the surface and forming the purple circle on the skin we’ve seen on the swimmers. In a sense, it is like you are creating a “hickey” on a muscle. These red, blue, or purple marks can last from a few days to a few weeks, but don’t leave behind pain as the large marks would suggest.

While the physical therapist is cupping, the patient feels a tight sensation in the area around the area. The most common area to use the practice is on the back, though it works best generally throughout the fleshy sections of the body.

The earliest documented use of Chinese cupping goes back to three thousand years ago. However, despite being known primarily as “traditional Chinese medicine,” similar treatments are known to have been used by ancient Egyptians, Indigenous Americans, early Greeks, and several other European and Asian countries. This suggests that the practice is more well-known and better understood than some may think.

So why is it used? Athletes claim that it aids in rapid healing and recovery, as well as improving blood flow and reducing pain. When you are a hardworking athlete, your muscles are being put to the test without much time to recover -- especially if you’re an Olympic athlete training endlessly for months, then finally competing over several days. When your body is constantly being put to the test as part of your job, you’ll want to figure out how to best lower your recovery time, while also treating your muscles well. Cupping can be a quick way to aid recovery, especially in conjunction with other treatments, such as acupuncture and medication.

On top of muscle fatigue, the British Society of Cupping suggests the treatment for:
  • Blood Disorders
  • Rheumatic diseases
  • Fertility
  • Skin Problems
  • Hypertension
  • Migraine
  • Varicose Veins
If you have concerns about muscle fatigue, or injuries, Cherry Creek Wellness Center’s physical therapists are here to help you develop a plan for recovery and for your personal wellness. With locations around the Denver area, we are prepared to help you with hand therapy, pelvic floor physical therapy, sports physical therapy, and vestibular rehabilitation. Call us today at 303-333-3493 to talk with someone about your physical therapy needs.