What is Cupping and How does it Work?

Cupping is a de-compressive myofascial (muscles + fascia) therapy developed and utilized in the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. While cupping has been around for thousands of years, it has recently gained some recognition in the sports world by athletes including Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. Easily identified by the circular bruise-like markings it leaves behind, cupping employs the use of negative pressure to create suction on the skin similar to that of a vacuum using cups. Today, cupping is widely used in practice by healthcare practitioners mainly to relieve muscle and joint pain.


Types of Cupping

With respect to myo-fascial therapy, there are two types of cupping that are commonly used: Fixed and Moving cupping.

*Fixed cupping is just as it sounds. The cups are applied to the skin and left in position for a period of time – usually 5 to 15 minutes. Fixed cupping works by drawing more blood flow into those areas being treated in order to promote healing.

*Moving cupping is a technique similar to muscle stripping in massage. Instead of leaving the cups in a static position, the cups are moved continuously along the length of the muscle being worked on. This allows for active stretching of muscle and fascia, which help to reduce tension in the muscle and fascia and in addition increase blood flow to the area for healing.


What are the Therapeutic Benefits of Cupping?

The intentions of cupping from a Chinese medicine perspective are to ‘move blood’ and ‘relieve stagnation’. Translated to a Western medical perspective, this basically means increasing blood flow to an area and relieving pain.

– The increased blood flow to muscles and around joints provides nutrients and oxygen, which promote healing in the case of muscle strains and joint inflammation.

– The physical decompression of tissue that happens with cupping aids in the treatment of adhesions and restrictions and in the release of trigger points.

– Cupping also stimulates lymphatic drainage aka detoxification, by helping to move metabolic waste that accumulates in muscle to the lymphatic system.

What are Common Conditions Treated by Cupping?

Cupping is best used for people with chronic muscle tension that needs to be relieved. Chronic muscle tension may also cause compression of blood vessels and/or nerves, which can lead to numbness and tingling in the extremities. Relief of muscle tension can also therefore benefit those who experience this type of numbness and tingling.

Common conditions treated with cupping include:

Muscle pain – including neck, shoulder and back pain, rotator cuff syndrome, shoulder & elbow tendonitis, numbness/tingling in hands and feet, hip tension, piriformis syndrome, IT band syndrome, knee pain, shin splints and Achilles tendonitis. In addition, due to its effects on the lymphatic system, cupping can also be used to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Interested in Cupping Therapy? Book your appointment today with Dr. Candice!


Dr. Candice Todd
THI Naturopath

To make an appointment call:
416.546.5077 or

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