Cupping is a treatment that’s often used in the management of various injuries and conditions. It’s used by many different healthcare providers, including physiotherapists and massage therapists. There are also different types of cupping, which can alter the outcome of the treatment.
Some practitioners use silicone cups with a lighter pressure, while others use glass cupping cups with a stronger pressure. Neither technique is inherently better than the other, but one may be more appropriate depending on the situation. In some situations, cupping may not be an appropriate treatment at all. It’s important to be able to determine when cupping might be useful for an injury or when it might trigger more pain. While there isn’t always a clear cut answer, there are certain signs or indications that we can use to guide our decision making.
The main goals of cupping therapy are typically to increase range of motion and to decrease pain and stiffness. In order to determine whether or not cupping is a good idea, it’s helpful to consider if you’re trying to achieve any of these goals.
If your goal is to accomplish a different outcome, such as decreasing bruising, there may be a better treatment option. Once you’ve decided that the goal of the treatment is to improve range of motion and/or decrease pain and stiffness, it’s important to consider how irritable the injury is. What I mean by this is how easily the injury becomes painful, how painful it gets, and how long it takes for the pain to settle down once it has been irritated.
For conditions or body parts that mainly feel stiff with very little pain, cupping will be a good option. In these situations, it’s unlikely cupping will exacerbate the pain which allows us to use more pressure (e.g. with glass cups). For conditions or body parts that feel equally stiff and painful, we can still use cupping, but may want to be more cautious. For these situations, cupping can cause more pain, but may also be helpful for improving the stiffness. As such, cupping with a lighter pressure is a good option. In this way, we can get the benefits of cupping while reducing the risk that it triggers more pain.
Finally, for conditions that are primarily painful, cupping may not be a good treatment option. While it can still be helpful, there is a greater risk that it may result in more pain and discomfort.
Can I do cupping at home?
Although cupping is usually performed by trained healthcare professionals, you don’t necessarily need specific training to do it. This means you can even do it at home!
If you want to perform glass cupping, you’ll need to get a full kit with all of the tools. On the other hand, if you want to perform silicone cupping, you just need a silicone cup and some lotion. You’ll likely need a friend or family member to help you out, depending on the location of your injury. If you’re performing cupping at home, it’s important to start out with less pressure and a shorter duration. This will allow you to get used to the cupping and determine what feels best for you.
Is cupping better than massage?
Many massage therapists will use both cupping and massage as part of their treatment plan. While cupping is not inherently better than massage and vice versa, they do offer slightly different sensations. Massage typically involves pressure down into the muscle, while cupping creates a suction that applies pressure up and away from the muscle. Both massage and cupping work to stimulate blood flow to the treated area, which can help with improving range of motion, and decreasing pain and stiffness. Some individuals may have preferences for one treatment over the other, similar to how some prefer deep tissue massages over gentle massages. More pressure or a certain direction of pressure is not necessarily better. It mainly depends on individual preferences and what feels best for you and your situation. It’s valuable to try both cupping and massage to get a sense of what you prefer. Within those two treatments, you can also try varying degrees of pressure to determine what you respond best to.