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Cupping- Not Just for Olympians

Cupping marks on Michael PhelpsSeen the large cupping marks on Michael Phelps, the swimmer who recently won his 23rd Olympic Gold Medal? Cupping is becoming very popular lately, with many sportspeople and celebrities using it to repair their bodies or improve their health. According to Ralph Reiff, a sports performance expert who has worked on over 100 members of the current U.S. Olympic team, the therapy also is popular with the USA track and field team as well as the swimming stars. He said “It’s very much common in our practice. We’ve found it to be an effective alternative therapy to add to our toolkit of resources.’’

Cupping advocates are also said to include LaShawn Merritt, who has recorded the top time in the world this year in the 400 meters, while champion tennis player Andy Murray and boxer Floyd Mayweather have been seen sporting cupping marks.

Olympic gymnast Alex Naddour has found the treatment “provides relief from the soreness and pounding that come from gymnastics”. He told a reporter “That’s been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy. It’s been better than any money I’ve spent on anything else. It has saved me from a lot of pain.”

Meanwhile movies stars Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, and Jessica Simpson have been using cupping for years to improve their health.

What is Cupping?

Cupping on the backGlass or plastic ‘cups’ are placed on the skin and a suction is created to draw the skin and muscle up a little. For ‘vacuum cups’ some of the air is pumped out of the cup to create the suction, and for ‘fire cups’, a flame is used to create the vacuum before the cup is quickly placed on the skin. (We only use vacuum cups at our clinic, as the pressure can be controlled far more accurately.)

What Does Cupping Do?

Dr Ayaaz Farhat, the co-director of the London Cupping Clinic, said “It is a very effective way to enhance, encourage and even accelerate the body’s own immune response to injury.”

“The main benefits are encouraging the inflammatory response of the body and speeding up muscular and soft tissue recovery after injury and strain. Cupping therapy has widened significantly though in the last few years and newer techniques are being used for conditions and diseases away from sports therapy such as migraines and eczema.”

In a nutshell, cupping loosens tight muscles, improves blood flow, clears toxins, and improves healing.

How it Helps the Muscles

Loosens Tight Muscles

Massage works by pushing down on muscles to cause them to relax. Cupping has a similar effect, but pulls the muscles up instead of pushing them down.

Reduces Muscle Soreness

Strenuous exercise or prolonged muscle tightness results in metabolic wastes that can cause muscles soreness, and the increased blood flow from cupping helps to get rid of these wastes, allowing the muscles to feel better and recover faster.

By increasing the blood flow, cupping also helps to flush out old toxins, which may have been hanging around for years.

Improves Healing

The increased blood flow brings extra oxygen and nutrients to the area, allowing any muscle damage such as micro-tearing (a very common effect of exercise) to repair much more quickly and effectively. This also means there is far less chance of tiny amounts of scar tissue forming in the muscles.

Cupping is therefore very good for muscle soreness, recovery from training or sports events, sports injuries, preparation for sports events, back pain, hip pain, sciatic problems, shoulder pain, etc. It is often included as part of a massage or acupuncture treatment.

How it Improves Your Health

In acupuncture and many other traditional systems of medicine, poor blood flow can cause almost any part of the body to not work properly. Think of the cells of your body like little plants- if you give them plenty of water and nutrients, they will be healthy, thrive, and perform well. (On the other hand, what happens if you put your plants in a dark cupboard and don’t water them?) In the same way, cells in your body that have plenty of oxygen and nutrients, and have their wastes cleared quickly, will be healthy and perform well; those with poor blood flow will not do well, and are likely to perform badly or become diseased.

Jennifer Aniston's cupping marks

Jennifer Aniston’s cupping marks

In Japan, it is a recognised therapy, and highly-trained cupping practitioners treat a very broad variety of conditions.

Used for Thousands of Years

There is reason to believe cupping was used as early as 3,000 BC, and it has been a part of traditional medicine in most parts of the world for thousands of years. Cupping was practiced in the Babylon – Assyrian Empire, and an Egyptian papyrus from 1,550 BC describes its use. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the ‘Father of Medicine’, used cupping for internal diseases and structural problems, and it was also popular with the Arabs. Cupping was also practiced in many other places in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. The modern methods of use originated in China and Japan thousands of years ago, and it continues to be used in many locations around the world today, such as Italy, Egypt, Greece, Holland, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. In 1946, the writer George Orwell described cupping being performed in a Paris hospital.

Types of Cupping

There are two main forms of cupping used today- Chinese (which may cause bruise marks) and Japanese (no bruise marks). In Australia, the Chinese method is mostly used for muscle or structural problems, especially back pain, sciatic or shoulder pain, whereas the Japanese technique is used more for internal health problems. Japanese cupping can even be used on young children, who usually find it fun!

Precautions

However, as with any therapy, it is important to see a properly trained therapist. Cupping should never be performed over broken skin, on the abdomen or back of pregnant women, over inflamed or bleeding organs (such as a stomach ulcer), or on anyone who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, heart issues, or blood vessel problems.

Having said that, all of the cupping therapists at our clinic are highly trained and experienced. We offer both the Chinese (may bruise) and Japanese (no bruise) styles.

How Effective Would Cupping be for Me?

So if you have a health problem that is not getting better, if you often have tight sore muscles, have a back, shoulder, or other structural problem, or if you want to perform better and recover faster after your sport or training, please feel free to give us a call on 3376 6911 and talk to our Head Therapist. He will be able to advise you on just how effective cupping treatments will be for your condition.