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What Is Cupping Therapy? See How You Can Benefit From Fire Cupping Therapy Just Like Athletes & Celebrities Do

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By Aimee

Did you see the circular bruises on Michael Phelps and other athletes competing in the Rio Olympics? The bruises on his back nearly got more attention than all of the medals he won in the pool!

Lots of Olympianscelebrities, and other athletes believe in the healing properties of cupping therapy.

Cupping (also known as fire cupping or Chinese fire cupping) has been used for thousands of years around the world.

cupping therapy cups

While it may not look very similar to guided spinal decompression, both cupping and spinal decompression actually rely on the same principles.

Here are the reasons cupping is used, and what you need to know before you try it


What Is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping therapy is known to be one of the most effective types of deep-tissue treatment and has gained popularity for more than 2,500 years.

This type of treatment is, in fact, a significantly powerful type of acupuncture or acupressure that treats ailments ranging from muscle spasms to cold symptoms.

One way to think about cupping is that it’s the inverse of massage. Rather than applying pressure to muscles, the suction uses pressure to pull skin, tissue, and muscles upward.

When cupping is combined with acupuncture or massage into one treatment — it can be very effective! It can also be used alone.

There are 2 main types of cupping therapy:

  1. Stationary – which is used to help clear the stagnation of blood and facilitate the release of pathogens.
  2. In massage – which is when the therapist glides the cups over the location to help relieve tension and congestion.

The type of cupping therapy you will receive depends on the type of pain you are experiencing.

cupping therapy back


What You Can Expect At Your Cupping Therapy Session

Obviously the process used during fire cupping therapy can vary, depending on the type of therapy you need and your therapists specialty.

Typically, here’s how it works:

  • For the first 10 to 20 minutes, a massage will be performed to loosen up the muscles.
  • The therapist then places cups on your body, forming a vacuum by using either heat or suction.
  • While the air inside the cup cools, skin and flesh are pulled upward into the vacuum that has been created.
  • This “suction cup” on the skin attracts all the toxins in the area, forming a lesion on the skin.
  • The heat and motion combine to increase blood circulation to the area, as well as to help massage the muscles.

TIP: Even though most therapists use glass cups today, there are also plastic ones that don’t require fire to create suction.

You can also buy cupping kits, as well as DVDs and fire cupping books if you’d like to try it yourself. If you’re hesitant about using heated cups, you can always start with suction devices.


On average, one 45 to 60 minute session of cupping therapy costs between $25 to $60. Because cupping therapy is considered an alternative medicine, most insurance companies will not cover the cost.

The number of sessions you need depends on the body part as well as the extent of the pain or injury.

Here’s how to find a cupping massage therapist near you.


Cupping Benefits Your Overall Health

Massage cupping therapy does not cause pain and is actually quite relaxing.

You may want to consider cupping therapy if you have been suffering from post-injury trauma, a sluggish colon, or surgery adhesions.

If your goal is to lose weight, you may also want to consider this therapy to get rid of cellulite in your body. Just know, if you’re looking to lose weight, cupping therapy is going to have to be paired with a strict diet to see results.


Here are some other benefits of cupping:

  • Relieves backaches, sore muscles, stress, and a stiff neck.
  • Controls hypertension, and alleviate the pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Relieves pain from migraines, depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • Eases the symptoms of seasonal allergy sufferers.
  • Slows down the aging process.
  • Helps with any skin ailments you might have.


Potential Side Effects Of Cupping Therapy

Today, cupping is gaining a good bit of attention among doctors and patients.

However, just like any other procedure out there, there are some potential side effects:

  • cupping-bruisesMarks are left behind (which typically last no longer than a week).
  • There is the possibility of skin infection, should the area not heal properly.
  • Instead of just leaving marks, sometimes cupping therapy can actually burn the skin.

NOTE: If you’re pregnant, menstruating, have certain types of cancers, or broken bones you should stay away from cupping therapy.

Although modern medicine is still unsure of the complete benefits of this therapy, scientists, athletes, and celebrities are increasingly convinced that in the hands of expert practitioners, it’s a really effective healing treatment.


More About Cupping Therapy