Cupping Role in Physical Therapy

By Jenny Johnson – CC’s Staff

Will cupping make me swim faster?

     Myofascial decompression, or cupping, has become more and more popular since the swimmers and volleyball players started showing off their cupping marks in the Olympics a few years ago. It has, however, been around in the PT world for much longer. In PT we like to use cupping to help decompress soft tissue layers and aid in mobility. It helps to decrease pain, promote healing, improve blood flow, improve range of motion, manipulate connective tissues, and stimulate the neurosensory system.
     Cupping works by causing a negative pressure inside the cup, causing suction of soft tissue layers under the skin. Pulling these layers up off of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc helps to free up those structures to move better. While many of our manual treatments (massage, soft tissue mobilization, trigger point release, etc) compress the fascial tissue layers together, this works in the opposite way to decompress and distract. We have various types of cups including plastic, silicone, and rubber, and they can be used stationary or more dynamically with movement. Sometimes they do leave red marks on the skin for a bit afterwards, but they are temporary, and worth the improvements in pain, circulation, and mobility.
     We utilize cupping with orthopedics, sports medicine, contractures, post-op recovery, overcoming compensation strategies, postural syndromes, neuro re-education, and scar mobilization. They come in handy when patients are not responding to joint mobilizations, manipulation, other soft tissue interventions, or therapeutic exercise, but can also be used in addition to many other PT treatments.
     Although we can’t say cupping can help you swim like Michael Phelps, we can use it to help with various conditions and helping improve function. Ask one of the docs at CC’s today if cupping would be helpful for you!


Post Author: Jenny Johnson

Jenny is a DPT, wife, baseball lover, kayaker, dog wrangler, and new mom to sweet baby, Bria.


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