Scary Therapy You Should Totally Try: Cupping


Princess Lisa receiving cupping treatment to her IT band.

This week on Scary Therapies You Should Totally Try, we’re going to learn about cupping!  No, I’m not referring to that YouTube sensation “The Cup Song,” or drinking out of a “Red Solo Cup” for therapeutic purposes….

Cupping therapy is another traditional Chinese medicine, much like acupuncture.  The traditional version involves heating a glass cup and applying it to the skin; as the glass cools, suction is created.  In the modern version, plastic cups are used and some sort of squeeze bulb removes air from inside, creating the same vacuum effect.  Practitioners believe that this suction mobilizes blood flow in order to relieve pain and tension and promote healing.

How Much?
I receive cupping therapy during my massage sessions, so it is included in the cost of a massage.  Generally speaking, a massage or other therapy session involving cupping, 30-60 minutes long will probably cost $80-$100.

What To Expect
Cups will be applied to your bare skin and suctioned on fairly tightly.  Your practitioner may leave these cups in place for a few minutes or they may begin to move them slowly across the injured/tight area.  I quite often have a few smaller cups anchored around my knee, and one larger cup moved up and down along the length of my IT band.  You probably won’t feel much besides the suction effect with the stationary cups; moving cups will feel similar to a heavy sports or physio massage.

You will most likely bruise after a session of cupping therapy.  Bruises tend to be kind of spotty looking and circular, like the cup!  I find that the more tension I am holding in an area, the more I bruise; the less tension I am experiencing, the less I bruise.  The bruises should fade in 3-5 days’ time.

cupping gwyneth

Gwyneth Paltrow wearing cupping marks in public, sparking discussion about this ancient Chinese therapy.

Why It’s Worth A Try
I have found cupping to be effective at relieving spots of fairly extreme tension – typically my IT band, erector muscles along my spine, and trapezius area.  The bruising is a small (visible) price to pay for the relief I experience.  If you’re addicted to the gossip column, you may have noticed that celebrities are trying this therapy too: stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Lady Gaga have been spotted unabashedly sporting cup marks on the red carpet.

Have YOU tried cupping? What kind of results did you see? Let us know in the comments!

Princess Lindsey

And, for more Scary Therapies, check our our other posts on:
* KT Tape
* Chiropractic
* Graston Technique
* Active Release Techniques (ART)
* Acupuncture


4 thoughts on “Scary Therapy You Should Totally Try: Cupping

  1. I once had a massage therapist use cups in a regular session and I LOVED it! Though I tend to appreciate the sessions that make me want to crawl off of the table! She did more moving cupping, almost using the cups themselves to massage — could tell when she was getting to the tight spots cause it was much harder to move the cup.
    Need to schedule a session with her when I’m at my dad’s for Thanksgiving!!

    • I also appreciate the “tough love” massages…as you can probably tell from all the “scary” stuff I have been willing to try!! I actually bought a cupping set to use at home though, after my massage therapist recommended it. Super cheap straight from China off eBay, and there really isn’t a way to do it “wrong.” I like to do my IT bands at home. 🙂

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