Myofascial Cupping and it’s Benefits

Myofascial Cupping

If you are a passionate sports fan you may have noticed on some athletes, round red or purple spots commonly on the back or on the shoulder region. Or perhaps you noticed it on other people too and you were wondering what was that? Well, that is the result, or better, the signs of a Myofascial Cupping Session.

What it is myofascial cupping and how does it work? And importantly, why does myofascial cupping produce those round marks and what are the associated benefits?

Myofascial cupping is a soft tissue therapy that involves the application of decompressed cups on the skin, creating a vacuum effect that lifts up underlying tissues such as the fascia ( connective tissue ) and muscles, blood and other fluid, close to the surface of the skin. Myofascial cupping is typically applied on back, shoulder, neck, sacrum, hip, abdomen, legs and arms.

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Using massage techniques, areas of muscular restriction and tension are located and myofascial cupping techniques are then applied by moving the cups in a gliding motion over the surface of the skin or, where fascial adhesion and trigger points are found, the cups may be left on specific areas for short periods of time to reduce or eliminate those adhesions or trigger points. Cupping therapy is still very effective even if the cups are not left in place for very long. 

Most manual techniques are based on compression of the muscles and other tissues, such as deep tissues techniques, soft tissue mobilisation and joint mobilisation techniques, whereas myofascial cupping works by creating suction of the cup to produce negative pressure or tensile stress that causes dilatation and capillary rupture; this is what creates the reddish-coloured circles called ecchymosis or bruising, and the lasting effect of this is what is typically seen to be therapeutically beneficial. Cupping works by stimulating inhibitory neural pathways, altering pain thresholds, promoting blood circulation, relieving swelling and increasing tissue temperature. The myofascial cupping technique reduces discomfort in the target tissues and has been shown in multiple scientific research studies that it has good effect in relieving chronic pain and consequently improving a patients quality of life.

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Myofascial cupping also has an effect on the lymphatic system. The cups are said to help draw toxins out of the muscle fibres and to increase blood flow toward the region by reducing tension, pain and tenderness to the affected muscle. Range of movement and mobility are improved by directly reducing any fascial adhesions, increasing the tissue temperature and the decreasing the viscosity of the tissues.

Cupping has been used for centuries among both Eastern and Western-based health care practitioners; however, cupping therapy is reemerging as a popular modality for chronic nonspecific neck pain, low back pain, shoulder pain, knee osteoarthritis, and to increase pressure-pain thresholds and to potentially enhance athletic performance in athletes.

The earliest use of cupping that is recorded dates back to 300 B.C., a Taoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong, described the method in his book “A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies”, in which the cups used were actually animal horns. But, there is reason to believe that the practice dates from as early as 3000 BC. The Ebers Papyrus, written c. 1550 BC and one of the oldest medical textbooks in the Western world, describes the Egyptians’ use of cupping while in ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems.

Chinese medicine developed cups made of bamboo, bronze or pottery and successively, during the 20th century, new glass cups were developed. The glass cups were depressurised by providing some fire in the cup to heat up the air within just prior to placement.

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At the end of the 20th century, another method of suction was developed, in which a valve was constructed at the top of the jar and a small hand-operator pump is attached so that the practitioner could suction out air without relying on fire. Here at City Physiotherapy we specifically use this type of apparatus in new and innovative ways, in which techniques can be used as a treatment on their own, or integrated into the typical remedial treatment with manual techniques that include myofascial release, trigger point therapy, soft tissue release and joint manipulation.

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The Benefits of Myofascial Cupping

Myofascial cupping has many therapeutic benefits which include:

  • Reduction in sympathetic nerve response and increased parasympathetic nerve response (relaxation effect on the body)
  •  Passively stretch soft tissues
  •  Draws blood from deep to superficial resulting in nourishing the skin by improving blood circulation
  • Increase tissue temperature
  • Reduce tension and adhesion in the tissues
  • Preventing fibrosis (scarring), correctly align collagen and assist the reduction of localised inflammation and aids recovery by increasing nutrient during the repair phase of an injury (sub-acute phase)
  • Drain lymph and cellular debris
  • Separate layers of connective tissue to bring hydration and blood flow to body tissues – soften tight muscles
  • Increase the range of movement and flexibility in joints
  • Move stagnations of lactic acid and metabolic waste and enable normal lymphatic flow to promote healthy circulation to help strengthen the immune system

Contraindications for Myofascial Cupping

  •  Malignant tumours
  • Acute musculoskeletal injury
  • Low blood pressure or other acute circulatory condition -Diabetes and medicated for blood thinning
  • Herniated and bulging discs
  • Extreme cold or flu
  • Acute rheumatoid arthritis
  • Healing fracture
  • Hypersensitive of the skin
  • Aneurysm
  • Haematoma
  • Acute disease
  • High temperature
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)
  • Infectious disease

If you would like to give myofascial cupping therapy treatment a try, give the clinic a call on 8212 4886 or book online on our website.

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