By: Holly Green AP, C.SMA
One of the lesser known treatments in Chinese Medicine is Cupping. Although it dates back to
over 3000 years ago, it was established as an official therapy in the 1950’s in China and the
former Soviet Union. Some view cupping and the cupping therapy benefits associated with it as
a stand-alone treatment, and specifically cupping therapy for athletes has since grown in
popularity. It recently came into the spot light in the last Olympics most noticeably with the U.S.
swim team and Michael Phelps and gymnast Alex Naddour.
An old Chinese medicine maxim states, “Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove
the stagnation, and you remove the pain.” Pain is the essence of disease and by removing
congestion, stagnation, “Qi” or vital force blockage, of blood flow, lymph and other vital body
fluids you can bring the body into better health, balance and natural flow of energy.
So what exactly is cupping and what are some of the benefits of utilizing this type of therapy
and in particular cupping for athletes?
What is Cupping Therapy?
Cupping uses a round glass or plastic cup and through suction applies a negative force to the
skin, and can loosen tight muscles, increase blood flow, and relax the nervous system. Cupping
can be used by both placing the cups in a stationary position or can be used with oil or lotion
for a “moving” cupping experience. The therapy can be very relaxing, and many patients enjoy
how it opens up “stuck” tissue and tight muscles relieving both pain and tightness very quickly.
It can be used with or without acupuncture and many times is incorporated into the same
Cupping Therapy Benefits for Athletes
One of the biggest cupping therapy benefits and main uses of cupping is to remove lung
congestion. I have found it to be very helpful for both cold congestion and asthma relief.
It can help athletes increase lung capacity and openness giving them more stamina.
By encouraging blood flow, it has many detoxifying effects on the skin. Used in facial
cupping it can tone up facial muscles while clearing lymph while stimulating collagen
production and helping to remove fine lines with a noticeable improvement in skin color
in as little as a few treatments.
Other cupping therapy benefits include reduction of pain intensity and can greatly
relieve back and neck tension. Many patients with extreme back tension have gotten
tremendous relief with cupping, especially when combined with acupuncture.
Can help reduce the appearance of cellulite and loosen adhesions
Can aid in improving digestion, some benefits being improved metabolism, relief from
constipation, a healthy appetite, and stronger digestion.
In athletes I have found it to be especially beneficial for not only upper back tightness
but lower back decompression, hamstring and quadriceps tightness, relieving spasm and
Alleviates inflammation by opening up the tissue to bring nutrients, blood and oxygen to
the area thereby also decreasing healing time and removing pain and stress in the joints
and surrounding tissues.
Are There Any Side Effects from Cupping?
There can be a mild redness from moving cupping or bruising from stagnant cupping but they
are usually mild and dissipate within a few days. The many cupping therapy benefits heavily
outweigh any minor side effects.
If you would like to know more about cupping or experience a cupping session for yourself, call
our office in Delray Beach at 561-303-3436 and schedule your session today!
AcuSportsTherapy is a top sports acupuncture clinic in Delray Beach that helps people
reach their highest potential for peak performance in life and sports. Holly Green,
founder of AcuSportsTherapy serving Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and West Palm Beach,
incorporates principles from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Western Sports
Medicine to view the patient’s injury from a truly integrated perspective. Contact us to
learn how we can help you recover faster, prevent recurring injury, perform at your
highest level, and sleep better!