Massage or Static Cupping: Which to use?
Cupping therapy is taking off in the West as a popular alternative treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Although relatively unknown until recently, the practice has popped up in clinics up and down the United States and is being used to address everything from constipation to cellulite to chronic pain.
However, the ancient healing art of cupping therapy is nothing new. The treatment has been a cornerstone of traditional healthcare systems across China, Korea and Tibet for thousands of years, despite only recently entering the public eye of the Western world.
In Western clinics, dry cupping is the dominant form of the therapy. Dry cupping is often further divided into two subcategories: static cupping and massage (or moving) cupping. But what’s the difference between the two, and is massage cupping more effective for treating certain conditions?
What is dry cupping?
Dry cupping (often thought of as ‘modern’ cupping) involves the application of cups (and suction) to the skin where cups are either left in place to stimulate a specific point in the subdermal tissues (site cupping) or are moved up and down along problem areas (moving/massage cupping).
Massage cupping vs Static cupping: What’s the Difference?
During a massage cupping treatment, cups are applied to the skin and then moved (with the help of oil) up and down along problem areas. This is different to static cupping, in which cups are left in one place after their application to the skin, usually for around 10 minutes.
The purpose of massage cupping is to stimulate a whole area or a network of organs (such as the digestive system) whereas site cupping is performed to target one particular spot (such as an acupressure or myofascial trigger point).
Massage cupping is often performed using oil to facilitate the gliding of cups over the skin. The type of movement used during a cupping massage depends on what condition you are hoping to treat.
Long, sweeping movements are used to stimulate large areas of the skin and underlying tissues. This helps to improve blood circulation and promote lymphatic drainage, facilitating the nourishment of tissues and the removal of toxins.
If the purpose of your cupping massage is to release tension from stiff, sore muscles, a stimulating, circular movement should be used. This relaxes and loosens the underlying muscles and can help to shift stubborn knots.
When is massage cupping better than Static cupping?
Different cupping treatments have different effects on the subdermal tissues, and massage cupping is more useful than other forms of the therapy for treating certain conditions. In particular, massage cupping is useful for treating digestive issues (such as constipation and flatulence) various pain conditions and cellulite.
Massage cupping for digestive issues
Various digestive issues can be successfully addressed by massage cupping. Functional constipation and flatulence are two such conditions, both of which be improved by massage cupping of the abdominal area.
Studies into the benefits of cupping therapy have found that massage cupping successfully relieved constipation in both children and older adults. The manual stimulation of the digestive areas performed in moving cupping is thought to encourage large bowel peristalsis. This facilitates healthy bowel movement, a lower gastrointestinal transit time and healthier overall gut function. The effect of massage cupping to the abdomen has also been found to reduce symptoms of flatulence in people with the condition.
Cellulite is a condition that affects almost all adult women globally, and dozens of treatments exist reduce the lumpy, uneven appearance of this skin condition. When applied to the thighs and buttocks in clinical trials, massage cupping was found to effectively decrease cellulite. It is thought to do so via a wide range of mechanisms. These include increasing local blood flow, encouraging lymphatic drainage and stimulating the fascia (the sheets of connective tissue underlying the skin).
In doing so, massage cupping is thought to help release the fat tissue that is stored in pockets along the fascia. This can reduce the bumpy appearance of cellulite, for smoother and more even skin.
Certain pain conditions
When applied to areas around the neck, back and shoulder, massage cupping can be an effective treatment for painful conditions such as frozen shoulder In one study, this treatment was found to successfully relieve pain and increase range of movement in the shoulder in the patient. Cupping massage is also a promising treatment for sufferers of chronic back pain, as the therapy is known to significantly reduce symptoms when applied to affected areas.
Relieving muscle tension
For athletes and gym enthusiasts, stiff and painful muscles are a common problem that can decrease your range of movement and affect your workout. Cupping massage is a great way to stimulate and relax the muscles, lifting the skin and helping to release tension. This can promote healing, growth and functionality. Moving cupping is also known to increase local blood circulation, bringing a fresh supply of nutrients and oxygen to tired muscles. It can also encourage release toxins from the tissues and stimulate lymphatic drainage, helping your body to eliminate these harmful substances.
Massage cupping is a variation of dry cupping in which cups are moved up and down problem areas to apply their suction to a wider area. The motion of the therapy effectively increases local blood flow, improves lymphatic drainage and stimulates the underlying tissues. This effect can relieve the symptoms of digestive issues (such as constipation and flatulence) cellulite and some pain conditions better than site cupping alone.
To decide which type of cupping therapy is best suited for your personal needs, it’s a good idea to book a consultation with a professional practitioner first. Discussing your symptoms can help them to more easily identify problem areas and decide which type of cupping therapy is most likely to produce the best results.