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  • Mary Carolla

Massage Cupping

Two-photo collage on grey background. One photo shows a series of massage cups on a person's back. The other photo shows a massage cup being used to massage a person's neck.

Cupping is a method of healing that has been used in different forms for centuries across many cultures, including ancient Egypt and China. Cups made of different materials are used to create suction on various parts of the body. The form of cupping people seem to be most familiar with is from traditional Chinese medicine, and many people who have used acupuncture have received that method.

In my own massage and bodywork practice, I incorporate a form of cupping therapy best described as dynamic cupping. I use pliable silicone cups to create suction on different parts of the body, depending on the client’s concerns that day. The suction creates a negative pressure that lifts and stretches the body’s tissues so they feel more mobile. Rather than leaving the cups stationary, I generally glide the cups over the tissues to facilitate lifting and stretching of the tissues. Sometimes I will briefly leave the cup stationary and stretch the tissues around the cup.  Dr. Joi Edwards, a physical therapist and cupping educator, describes cupping massage  as “massage in reverse.”

Benefits people report noticing when adding cups to massage include helping reduce pain, feeling the effects of the massage for longer after the session, and  a sensation of the tissues feeling “looser.”

Cupping massage should feel good and not painful. You may notice some pinkening or reddening of the skin, but it usually fades quickly. Generally, since I do not leave the cups in one spot for an extended period of time, you shouldn’t develop the dark red marks that you may have seen on people who have received cupping work where the cups are stationary for longer times.

While cupping does feel great and can be helpful for many conditions, it may not be appropriate for everyone at all times. If you are interested in incorporating the cups into your next massage session, let me know. As always, we’ll make sure you are receiving the safest and most effective massage for your individual needs.

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