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Cupping Therapy For Athletes: Does It Work?

Throughout your life, there might have been a few times where you saw an athletic or fitness-oriented person with reddish-purple spots on certain parts of their bodies. For those who watched the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, you might have seen some swimmers like Michael Phelps with these bruise-looking spots on their shoulder blades or upper arms. These spots, that make athletes look like they just did battle with a giant squid, are the result of a fairly recent orthopedic sports therapy practice: cupping.

Jaded Body Wellness and Spine Institute is a proud provider of a variety of orthopedic sports therapy practices, including cupping, to Wasilla, Girdwood, and the surrounding areas. Our orthopedic experts have extensive experience using cupping therapies, as well as an assortment of other rehabilitation and hands-on physical therapy practices. Keep reading to learn more about cupping therapy, whether it might be a good option for you, and how Jaded Body Wellness and Spine Institute can help.

What is Cupping?

Cupping therapy is a recent therapeutic trend that is actually based on an ancient form of Chinese alternative medicine that has been in use for a long time. The basic practice involves placing tea-cup-looking plastic devices on your body and creating a vacuum that expands the blood vessels in the area and pulls your skin up. This vacuum can be created in a number of ways, whether it’s a more ancient technique of air cooling inside the cup after combustion or the more modern technique of a rubber pump that sucks the air out. The cupping process lasts for less than 5 minutes, simultaneously using 3-5 cups for a first-time session, and is meant to increase blood supply to a specific area to provide expedited recovery effects on tired muscles. 

Not So Recent of a Trend

While this trend seems fairly recent in its popularity, the practice has actually existed for thousands of years. There are reports of cupping therapy in the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world used by ancient Egyptians in 1,550 B.C. Ancient cupping techniques involved setting a flammable substance on fire and letting it burn inside the cup. The cup is then placed on the skin, and as the air cools, the hot air escapes and creates a natural vacuum. However, cupping therapy has made some innovative progress in the last few thousand years, and now the use of a pump is much more common for creating this vacuum effect.

Wet vs. Dry Cupping

In addition to different methods of creating the vacuum, there are also two types of cupping, wet and dry. Dry is the normal method that has been described above. Wet cupping is very similar to dry cupping, except a tiny incision is made at the treatment spot either before or after cupping treatment, meant to provide some pressure relief on your skin, and allow the cup to suck out any potential impurities like toxins in the blood. Each has certain benefits depending on the reasoning for cupping therapy, so ask your physical therapist which one might be the better choice for you and your body.

Does it Work?

Like practically any therapy technique, physical or psychological, no one can say definitively that it works 100% of the time, for every person, for every purpose it is used for. But there are a plethora of studies that show cupping can provide significant levels of pain and muscular strain relief and rehab, like relieving chronic neck and shoulder pain, or providing localized stretching and lowered pain levels for skeletal muscle injuries due to repetitive injury or overuse.

It’s not guaranteed that a cupping therapy session will solve your muscular issues, but the effects a cupping session can have on your localized muscle areas can potentially provide effective pain relief and expedited recovery for a variety of muscular pain and strains. Cupping causes vasodilation (the widening of blood vessels) and hyperemia (increased blood flow to a part of the body), both of which can effectively provide rehabilitation effects on overstrained muscles. This practice is especially effective for athletes who need to perform and then recover to perform again. And when you see some of the greatest athletes on this Earth using these cupping therapy techniques, like the world saw during the 2016 Rio Olympics, it’s hard to not consider trying them out to help you recover and rehabilitate more effectively.

Cupping Therapy at Jaded Body Wellness

Cupping therapy is an incredible therapeutic innovation that can be used for orthopedic treatment in a variety of muscular areas. Like all therapeutic treatment techniques, there is no guarantee of relieving all of your pain or injury, but when Olympic athletes are using them to effectively rehabilitate their muscles, it might be worth trying out to help you rehabilitate.

Whether it’s a muscular injury, or some exhausted muscles after a lengthy workout, a cupping therapy treatment from Jaded Body Wellness might be just what you need to effectively rehabilitate and get your muscles and body back up to proper functioning levels. Our trained therapy specialists are dedicated to providing quality service and treatment for anyone looking to improve their body functioning. Jaded Body Wellness and Spine Institute offers a number of other physical therapy and hands-on manual therapy techniques that can help you, so give us a call today and schedule an appointment now.

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