What The Cup?

Dynamic cupping and how it fits in to your sports recovery and pain relief.

Outside of a select few who actually had cupping therapy prior to 2012, most of us remember the first time we saw the little bruise circles - Michael Phelps, 2012 Olympics.  Just as Kinesio taping sparked our curiosity during the prior Olympics with Volleyball megastars Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, as soon a Michael Phelps stepped on the starting platform for his first races, questions started to pop up on every major news outlet across the world.  

 

So What Is Cupping? 

Cupping therapy is a form of ancient Chinese medical therapy dating back thousands of years. Basically, heat is used to create pressure inside the ‘cups’, now achievable through pressure valves without heat, which draws the superficial soft tissues (skin, fascia, and maybe muscles) up into the cups...all in the name of greater circulation and pain relief.  While this practice has been around the block a few times, as manual therapists progress in knowledge and skill, so do our practices.

 

Enter A New Form Of Cupping Therapy.

Taking a tried and true form of therapy and adding movement, this is what the modern landscape of manual therapy looks like.  With cupping, this is no different….enter DYNAMIC CUPPING.

While cupping therapy has its benefit, clinically we have found that incorporating movement, specifically, a full range of motion and sport-specific movements during cupping can help relieve pain and improve the needed movements to return to play and activity faster.  

At Revive Sport & Spine, Dynamic cupping is utilized in 2 ways.  

One is to place the cups in the desired area of injury.  The practitioner will then glide and move the cups around with the intention of affecting the underlying tissue with improved circulation and adhesion release.
The second option is to affix the cups in the desired location and then have the patient progress through a series of movements and specific sports related actions.

 While data is hard to come by for this practice, partly as it is difficult to study it against a sham treatment, clinically the results have been beneficial when used with other therapies such as active soft tissue release, dry needle therapy, and other chiropractic and physiotherapy modalities.  

 
 

 

Conditions That Respond Well To Dynamic Cupping.

Treatment plans for care and actual therapies used should be case specific.  That being said, dynamic cupping has shown to be beneficial in relieving pain and speeding recovery from low back pain, neck pain, hip pain, shin splints, IT band syndrome, Achilles tendonitis, rotator cuff strains, shoulder pain, as well as many other musculoskeletal complaints.  

 

How Does Cupping Work?

  • Improved circulation.

    Hallmarked by the circular bruise post-treatment, as the tissue is pulled up into the cup, capillary beds begin to swell and break (mildly), leading to an increase in blood flow.  
  • Mild Inflammatory Response

    Anytime tissue is damaged, intentionally or unintentionally, the body begins a cascading response that causes what we call inflammation.  Inflammation carries the cells needed to heal damaged tissue and in this case, we intentionally apply suction to mildly damage capillary beds and move soft tissue, in turn causing a mild inflammatory response with the goal of increased recovery and shortened time.  
  • Tissue Movement & Decompression

    As a manual therapist, most treatment modalities utilize pressure or the pressing in on a tissue.  Cupping is one of the few that is decompressive in nature as it pulls the skin and superficial tissue away from the body.  While the debate is still out, utilizing dynamic cupping can help relieve pain and restricted motion by decompressing the tissues and moving them across each other.  Further studies will hopefully begin looking into this.
  • Clinical Evidence

    As a clinician that utilizes dynamic cupping therapy with runners, CrossFit athletes, and golfers as well as the low back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain sufferers associated with desk sitting, it is a great adjunct to many other therapies.  At Revive Sport & Spine, we typically utilize dynamic cupping after dry needling, while incorporating movement and IASTM practices with cups in place. We have found that creating the right mix of treatment for the right patient aimed at their specific goals often yield faster than expected results.  

 

We look forward to more data being produced on dynamic cupping as a stand-alone therapy and in conjunction with joint manipulation, dry needling, and IASTM therapies.  We have much to learn about the human body and every day is an opportunity to grow and improve. Dynamic cupping could be a great therapy for you and help you achieve your goals and recover faster...it could also just be another feel-good therapy.  Either way, the risk is minimal so….If it makes you feel better and the risk is low, do what you need to do to stay in the game and out of pain. 


Dr. Reheisse is a Board Certified Chiropractic Sports Physician practicing in Cottonwood Heights Utah. Revive Sport & Spine provides evidence-supported chiropractic care and conservative sports injury management.