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Cupping is a technique that has been utilized since at 3000 B.C. (1).  Recently this technique has been utilized by health professionals to treat a various injuries.  There are two types of cupping typically performed, dry and wet cupping.  Wet cupping involves a small incision of the skin before placing the cups on the target area whereas dry cupping does not involve incision of the skin.

How does it work

Cupping can increase circulation to an injured area.   Often when a muscle is injured, circulation can be comprised due to increased tone of muscle compressing on vessels. It is important for a muscle to have proper circulation, so the healing process can occur naturally.  Cupping can also affect nerve in the muscles which can block pain messages.  Placing the cups near points where nerves are irritated can alleviate symptoms in this region.

How is cupping done?

There are many types of cupping instruments available (2), but typically is performed using a small round cup made of thick glass and rolled edge.  Cups can also come in the plastic, bamboo, rubber, silicone, ceramic and metal material.  There are also various methods to apply the suction, but a common one is the suction gun which is the technique we utilize in our clinic.

Is cupping safe?

Complications with the use of dry cupping has been found to be rare in studies available.  In the few cases where complications were reported the cups were left in target area for more than 20 minutes.  Adverse effects of cupping can include increased redness, bruising, and or hematoma.  The risk of these adverse effects is minimal as the types of techniques we utilize do not require more than 5-10 minutes typically.

How cupping can be used in physical therapy.

Static cupping is when cups are placed in pain points and left for 5-20 minutes.  Dynamic cupping involves placing the cups on affected area and then having patient perform certain movements to increase muscle stretch.  Dynamic cupping can also be utilized to treat nerve issues when used in conjunction with proper gliding techniques.  The most important thing to remember is that not every injury or symptom is the same and it is important to have proper evaluation by a physical therapist to see if cupping or any of our other techniques will be effective for you!



  1. Rozenfeld, E., Kalichman, L., New is the well-forgotten old: The use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine, Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies (2015), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.11.009
  2. Aboushanab TS, AlSana S., Cupping Therapy: An Overview from a Modern Medicine Persipective, J Acupunct Meridian Stud.2018 Jun;11(3):83-87. doi: 10.1016/j.jams.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Feb 7.

Picture references

Cup types. [online image].  Retrieved January 10, 2019 from https://www.chaudhryclinic.ca/cups-types/

 sylv1rob1 Deposit Photos. What’s up with cupping therapy used by Olympians? [online image]. Retrieved January 10, 2019 from https://healthyaging.net/healthy-lifestyle/cupping-therapy/

Is there scientific support for cupping [online image]. (2018). Retrieved January 10, 2019 from https://libguides.gwumc.edu/c.php?g=27779&p=170351

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