Cupping uses specialized glass or rubber cups that painlessly separate stuck muscle and connective-tissue layers. The pressure can be strong to provide relief from tension and pain, or gentle to increase lymph flow, circulation and relaxation.

As the cups draw congested fluids and toxins to the skin surface there is often a discoloration called “sha” that can look like a rash or possibly a bruise. This is a normal part of the process of resolving stagnation in the muscles, and the sha typically fades in a few days.

Although cupping is an ancient technique there is some current research for its effectiveness including this article from the Mayo Clinic on cupping therapy for fibromyalgia.

Cupping is used in massage therapy to treat stagnation and congestion in muscles causing pain and stiffness.

Acupuncturists use cupping to treat acute colds based on the principle that a pathogenic factor such as Cold or Wind has penetrated the tissues causing stagnation, and therefore the achiness, fatigue and other symptoms.

The most traditional style of cupping is fire cupping which uses a simple glass cup that looks something like a small fishbowl where a vacuum is created using a flame that is inserted briefly into the cup, the flame never contacts the client’s skin. Also commonly used are rubber or silicon cups with built-in suction.

Cupping acts as a myofascial release technique and is an effective treatment for large areas of sore muscles. It is excellent in combination with massage to treat soreness and tension in the back, hips and legs.