What is Cupping Therapy? Uses, Benefits, Side Effects, and More.

Cupping is a type of complementary and alternative therapy that originated in Asia many years ago. It involves using glass cups to which a practitioner places over the skin to create negative pressure through suction. Originally this suction was primarily created through the use of a heated fire and then applied to the skin. As they cooled, the cups drew the skin inside; creating that suction. However, modern cupping is often performed with no heat and the suction is created by a pump. There are two types: wet cupping and dry cupping. Wet cupping involves heated suction and controlled medicinal bleeding while dry cupping just involves suction.

Commonly performed by Acupuncturists; they believe that cupping helps balance the yin and the yang, or the negative and positive within the body. By restoring balance between these two extremes it's thought to help with the body’s resistance to pathogens as well as its ability to increase blood flow and reduce pain. The benefits, in the athletic perspective, are that it increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This provides relief with muscle tension, muscle spasms and can improve overall blood flow that promote cell repair. An additional benefit in this process is that it may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.

What should I expect?

During a cupping treatment, glass cups will be placed on areas in the muscle that either have restrictions or trigger points. The practitioner only uses about 2-3 cups at a time and the cup is set in place between 3 and 7 minutes.

Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for everyone. Extra caution should be taken for the following:

Seniors. Skin becomes more fragile as we age and any medication you may be taking might have an effect; especially blood thinners.

Pregnancy. We want to avoid cupping the abdomen and lower back if you are expecting.

Women who are currently menstruating should consider doing this practice before or after your cycle.

Contraindications to Cupping therapy include:


Open wounds

Skin ulcers

Recent trauma to the muscle

Internal organ disorder

Benefits & Side Effects

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. At Elite; the main purpose for cupping is to be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and muscle tension. Cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, making the practice possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.

There aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. The side effects you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after. You can feel lightheaded or dizzy during your treatment, due to the increase in blood flow. Also you may also experience sweating or nausea; due to discomfort of the cups or muscle tension. After your treatment, the skin around the rim of the cup may become irritated and a circular pattern will appear. You will also experience bruising where the cups are placed, however these circle bruises disappear after 7-10 days.

Take away

If you do choose to try cupping as part of your recovery plan, discuss your decision with your doctor or orthopedist. Cupping therapy along with continued regular doctor visits related to your condition will give you the best of both worlds as well as provide a safer approach to muscle recovery. Contact one of our Athletic Trainers or Recovery Specialist today to find out if Cupping Therapy can benefit you!


Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al. The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(2):90-97. Published 2018 Apr 30. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2018.03.003

Furhad S, Bokhari AA. Cupping Therapy. 2020 Jul 31. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan–. PMID: 30855841.

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