Cupping: Do You Always Get the Marks?

Cupping: Do You Always Get the Marks?

Fire Cupping

So, do you always get the Cup Marks?

Short Answer: No

Long answer: There are multiple styles of cupping and methods of application that create different results. Our familiarity with the classic “cup mark” comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Wherein the practitioner uses flame to remove the oxygen from inside the cup before quickly placing it on the body. As in the image below. They then leave the cup in place for anywhere from a couple seconds to 10-20 minutes with one of the goals being the decongestion and detoxification of the tissues.

The vacuum effect of the cup lifts stagnant waste (dead red blood cells, metabolic wastes, etc.) that have gotten lodged in the muscles and soft tissue to the superficial layers of the body. This makes them more accessible to the lymphatic system which then cleans it up and out of the body. This is why we see the cup marks so strongly on the people who receive cupping under TCM. It’s the whole point.

Fire Cupping from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Cup Marks Aren’t Bruises

These marks are commonly confused with bruises. While there is sometimes minor damage to capillaries, a cup mark does not respond the same as a bruise. First, it’s not painful; pressing on the cup mark causes no discomfort. Second, they don’t go through the same discoloration cycle that bruises do.

A cup mark will generally just fade and disappear within 24-72 hours. While a bruise cycles through lovely shades of purple, green, and yellow, before finally dissipating. If cup marks are lasting longer this could possibly indicate that the lymphatic system is sluggish and congested or that you aren’t well hydrated. Interestingly, (unlike bruises) when receiving regular cupping, the marks stop appearing even though we may be using stronger suction.

Static Cupping, where the cups are allowed to sit in place, can mimic massage techniques. Here, there therapist's goal is to "bend" the muscle to create a micro stretch.

Static Vs. Dynamic

Here at Brookview Wellness, we do not practice Traditional Chinese Medicine. Therefor, we do not perform the traditional style of cupping (also fire is hazardous and we’d rather not introduce that to the office). Our massage therapist uses a hand pump to control the suction at all times so pressure can be varied to meet our patient’s comfort level. Additionally our cups are rarely stationary. We provide “dynamic cupping”, where the cups glide over the skin using lotion.

The benefits of this are a much gentler approach to myofascial release as the skin and superficial tissues are lifted up off of the deeper structure and lightly “rolled” or stretched under the cup. If an area has been tight and restricted for a long time, this can cause reduced blood flow in the region and lead to an accumulation of wastes. Because of this, we do occasionally see cup marks even in our lighter work.

Two handed dynamic cupping. Dynamic cupping can be applied anywhere and is most helpful on the fascia.

Try it Yourself!

Cupping is an upgrade that is included as part of our normal massage pricing. If you’re feeling tight and tense or know you have bad posture at your desk, cupping could help you. All new clients receive a 30 minute consultation and postural analysis before their first session. This way we know if/how cupping can help and ensure it’s a safe part of your care.