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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Hutson

Massage Cupping

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

History of Massage Cupping

The first known cupping tools were made from basic natural materials such as bamboo, bones, horns, seashells and nuts. Because cupping was often performed with animal horns, treatment was known as “horn therapy”.


Chinese people have a long history with cupping. Chinese have practiced and studied cupping for decades, earliest ages back to 300AD!!

  • Chinese used hollowed horns for cupping. Animal horns were hollowed out and a small hole was made that allowed the air to be sucked out. The resulting vacuum would draw toxins to the surface.

  • Cupping was later used in surgery to divert blood flow from the open site.

  • Cupping was used for example to drain pus from blisters.

  • In some of the earlier Chinese writings, cupping was recommended for the treatment for tuberculosis. And it actually was one of the main treatments for tuberculosis by the time of the Tang dynasty (618-907).


  • Cupping became in Egypt in 1550 B.C.

  • Egyptians stated that cupping was good for fevers, pain, vertigo, menstruation, appetite, constipation and accelerating the "healing crisis" of disease.

  • From the Egyptians, cupping was introduced to the Greeks, and it was eventually spread to ancient cultures of many European countries and even America.


  • European and American doctors still widely use cupping up into the late 1800s.

  • Cupping was usually "wet cups" 0r bleeding cups. The technique now is bloodless, yet no less effective.

  • During the 19th century Europe addressed cupping as dry cupping only.


Many of us didn't know what cupping was until summer of 2016 when Michael Phelps came out to swim! We were all wondering what those marks were on his shoulders and back! Those are cupping marks!!!! Even the true athletes get cupping to help recovery time and loosen their muscles.

How does Cupping work?

  • Cupping works by creating a vacuum, or suction, to force blood to the skins surface.

  • Cupping dilates the blood vessel to draw out toxins to the skins surface from the body through the skin.

  • The cup is positioned over the area of the body to be treated and suction is created.

  • The suction level can range from light to heavy or deep! The cupping movements can range from stimulating to sedating.

  • Always start with target areas on the body when cupping.

  • Two ways for intensity factor: the size of the cup and how long the cups are placed.

  • Larger cups help break down fatty deposits and breakdown adhesions

  • Smaller cups stimulate and localized circulation, as well as diffuse inflammation

Where Can You Get Cupping Done?

  • The entire back

  • The neck

  • Shoulders

  • Sacral Areas

  • Hip Areas

  • Thigh Areas

  • Abdominal Area

What causes the redness?

  • Massage cupping produces a discoloration called a "kiss cup" or "doo-hickey".

  • The suction impacts dermal and subcutaneous blood vessels. With acute injurious tissue these vessels will tend to dilate, causing a redness, or erythema, to occur.

  • With tissue that is chronically injurious the region becomes a purple color as blood stagnates in this region. If this appears, it is an added bonus indicating the release of intense stagnation (body fluids and toxins) in that area.

  • The cupping breaks capillaries, the small blood vessels under the skins surface, causing the red marks where the cups were placed. The spots can last from several days or weeks depending on how dark the spots were.

  • The skin will also turn red, indicating that circulation has been brought to the surface of that area where the cup has been working.

Potential Reactions

1. Cup Kiss

  • Discoloration due to toxins and old blood being brought to the surface

2. Post Tenderness

  • Usually less than from deep tissue work

3. Redness & Itching

  • Increased vasodilation and/or inflammation brought to the surface

4. Decreased Blood Pressure

  • Due to vasodilation and/or nervous system sedation

Colors & Textures Often Seen & Felt

  • Red speckling (brown & purple) / how quickly it turns color

  • Circles

  • Marbleizing

  • Gravel, energy cysts, sand, bubble pack

  • Cup sticking

  • Redness with heat emanating

  • Redness with cool temperatures

  • Large stagnant blood deposits

Benefits of Massage Cupping

Cupping affects the Nervous System the most. Cupping will increase blood supply locally, where the cup is placed, to help increase oxygen delivery and metabolic waste in that area. Cupping has many benefits, below is just some benefits!!!

Muscle Benefits:

  • Helps reduce muscle tension

  • Loosens the muscle belly

  • Softens the underlying muscle tissues

  • Increase flexibility and mobility

  • Tones muscle attachments

  • Helps speed up post-workout recovery

  • Increase range of motion to the muscle belly

  • Release deep muscular issues

Tissue Benefits:

  • Soften and minimize scar tissue

  • Release rigid tissue and compensatory patterns

  • Separates/Break Down adhesions in tissue layers

  • Lifts the connective tissue

  • Bring hydration and blood flow to body tissues

Blood Benefits:

  • Brings an influx of blood supply to the muscle and skin

  • Brings hydration and blood flow to the body tissues

  • Brings nourishing blood supply to the skin

Other Benefits:

  • Drain excess fluids and toxins by opening lymphatic pathways

  • Stimulates lymph

  • Stimulates Qi (open energy flow to the body)

  • Liberate trapped inflammation and draw the inflammation out

  • Increase Range of Motion

Conditions That Respond Well to Body Cupping

  • Scar Tissue

  • Edema

  • Restricted lymphatic flow and circulation

  • Inflamed joints

  • Trigger Points

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Bursitis

  • Tendonitis

  • Sluggish Colon

  • Sciatica

  • Cellulite (skin toning and firming)

  • Toxicity

  • Neuralgia and Rheumatism

  • Pre & Post Operations (assist in the healing process, breakdown of adhesions)

  • Plantar Fasciitis

  • Athletic Injuries

  • Asthma (ease labored breathing)

  • Pneumonia (ease labored breathing)

Safety & Contraindications

  • Avoid if on blood thinners

  • Avoid if you have diabetes

  • Avoid if you have varicose veins

  • Avoid if you have electrical implants (pacemakers, spinal stim, or insulin pump)

After Massage Cupping

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Do not exercise until the next day

  • Avoid extreme hot or extreme colds (chills, drafts, showers, steams, sauna)

  • Do not receive other bodywork for 48 hours after

  • You will have skin discoloration, will dissipate between 1-4 days

  • Burning sensations (indicates a renewed blood flow to the tissue

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