American Massage Cupping

Massage Cupping and Massage Cupping Therapies are some of the most effective of the therapies used by those skilled in  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Massage Cupping, both the traditional Chinese version and the newer techniques now taught, are powerful manual techniques for breaking up localized congestion. dramaticaly increasing circulation and improving the health and well being of the body.  Using suction  to lifts and raise the skin while the therapist is working.  It has  all the benefits of deep tissue without damaging the hands or body of the therapist.  Massage Cupping does require some additional training But the benefits to the client and to the therapist are both dramatic.  The practice is ancient and has evidence that it was used in Egypt over 5000 years ago and is easily learned by most practicing massage therapists. Using basic massage techniques and with the understanding of  cupping theory, bodyworkers can deliver a deep, therapeutic cupping treatment while not experiencing the stress on their hands giving relief from the rigors of their profession.

What is Cupping?
Historically cupping was used to drain toxins from snakebites and skin lesions, in cupping’s origin hollowed out animal horns were used to suck poisons out of the patients skin. As medical skills increased the therapeutic applications of cupping were applied to an increasing number of health conditions. In time the cups originally crafted from horns evolved to bamboo, then glass and sometimes plastic.

Records have proven that ancient cultures of China, and Greece  regarded cupping as a medical practice as early as 28 A.D. Over the years, the incredible power of the cuppings suction have been used for many aches. ills and ailments.  The powerful stimulation and increase in circulation has made a powerful difference in healing these and many other physical issues. 

          Tightened or painful muscles

        Sprains or strains



          Pinched nerves

          Lung congestion

          Menstrual irregularities

          Inflamed breasts

          Lactation dysfunction

          Gastrointestinal disorders



Types of Cupping Techniques
There are several cupping variations within a massage therapist’s scope of practice:

   Fire Cupping Method – The therapist takes a cotton ball and clamps it with hemostats, adds 4-5 drops of  alcohol then ignites it with a lit candle, places the flame into a glass cup to remove the oxygen and removes it quickly.  The therapist then inverts the cup onto the skin. Because the flame consumes the cup’s oxygen, a strong suction is created.  The suction is determined by the size of the cup, the duration the flame is held in the cup and how quickly it is applied.

  Cupping with a Mechanical  Pump Method – Usually composed of plastic, these cupping sets allow the practitioner to use a pump to remove oxygen from the cup, thus creating suction.

Stationary Cupping or Parking – This is when a cup is applied to a specific location and can be left there for up to 15 minutes.

 • Running Cupping   lubricant is applied to a broad area just as in a regular massage a cup is adhered to the body, and then moved around without breaking the seal. The cup actually performs the massage just as with your hand.  It can do cross fiber, deep tissue and effleurage.


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      Cupping Theory
Cupping is known for its ability to break up localized stagnation. Cupping is reputed to:

  Drain excess fluids and toxins
Loosen adhesions
  Lift connective tissue
  Enhance circulation in stagnant musculature and fascia
  Stimulate he peripheral nervous system

In Chinese medical theory, the stagnation can be of just about any type: blood, toxins, qi or dampness. The suction created by cupping draws stagnant toxins, heat, energy or fluid out of where it has accumulated deep within the tissues, and brings it to the body’s surface. Once close to the skin off accumulated toxins can more easily be eliminated via the body’s lymph system.

 The following conditions benefit from the elimination of stagnation, and the elimination of toxins. 

1. Stagnated Blood – Injuries, adhesions, menstrual irregularities

2. Accumulated Toxins – Gastrointestinal disorders, rigid muscles, breast inflammation3. Stagnate Qi or energy flow – Muscular pain, dysmenorrhea, pinched nerves

4. Stagnation of the bodies fluids – Lung congestion, asthma, lactation dysfunction, edema.

 Adhesion can be released either through the parking method or through moving the cup over the body. Congestion and stagnation are pulled up and are removed from their source. Allowing for the increased flow of fresh blood, energy and fluids necessary to expedite healing.

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Cupping Massage Techniques
Having the knowledge and comfort of being able to work with several massage cupping techniques can help the therapist or  bodyworker confidently include cupping in their range of services. Below are ten suggestions for effective massage cupping:

1. The running suction for running requires a lighter suction than that used in stationary cupping or parking.

2. Before using the cups in the running movement or in the friction mode, the area should have adequate oil for an easy smooth gliding cup movement.

3. When applying the cups, the movements should be smooth with the practitioner applying a neutral or slightly upward pressure.

4. The broad areas of the back and upper thighs and buttocks are the best surfaces for running cupping. The back can generally accommodate the larger cups.

5. Long strokes with the cups can help drain fluid accumulation and stimulate blood flow.

6. Cross fiber or circular movements with a cup over a smaller areas can help release stubborn knots, adhesions and other types of rigid tissue and cellulite.

7. When the cupping is performed the blood is brought close to the surface and any essential oil formulas, whether for cellulite, fibromyalgia or bodywraps the treatment is much more effective since the blood retreating draws the essential oils or mud wrap formula along with it.

8. Cupping along the ribs can increase ribcage expansion and benefit deep breathing. This can benefit those with asthma or emphasema.

9. Vigorous circling movements with the cups on the gluteus maximus ( your bottom)  can help ease certain types of sciatica (along with breaking up adhesions and cellulite) in the area.

10. Stationary cupping on the Lung Back Shu points can assist with the expansion of the chest and  help relieve chest congestion, coughing and asthma.

 Centuries of successful use in Egypt, Greece, China and other locations have prompted few case studies. It simply works and works well which explains not only its continued usage but its worldwide growth.  Since cupping falls under the umbrella of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most of the research on this modality has been conducted within a TCM setting along with some cooperative research between China and Russian medical organizations.

 Senile Dementia – Researchers evaluating the effect of running massage cupping on patients with senile dementia. The research determined that running cupping improved dementia’s symptoms as evidenced by increased measures of bodily strength, memories, feelings and movement. They compared the patients clinical symptoms before and after treatment using cupping or acupuncture. Research showed that cupping’s ability to reduce chronic fatigue symptoms far surpassed acupuncture’s effectiveness.

Using cups to massage the body can be incorporated into most bodywork sessions. By learning about this modality and practicing different running cupping techniques, practitioners can add another layer of therapeutic effectiveness to their treatments.

By using both stationary cupping techniques and the running cupping techniques bodyworkers can add an extremely effective method to break up scar tissue, cellulite, increase circulation, enhance lymphatic drainage and aid the body in detoxification which will speed healing in all manor of diseases. 


Fire Cautions
 Fire cupping is the traditionally method of cupping and is used by many practitioners.  It not only is the original technique but requires the least amount of equipment. In fire cupping the danger of exposed flame means that extreme caution must be used. Therapists must be quick, agile and cautious to prevent burning their clients. The following tips help prevent burns or fire hazards:

Protect – Since the the cup must be in close proximity to the client for quick application, the client’s skin, hair, clothing and anything flammable (hair product, oils, linens) must be protected from catching fire. Being alert and using common sense is crucial to providing such protection.

Plan – Planning your work area prior to  cupping is essential to minimize any fire hazards. The cotton ball is lit from a burning candle, and placed inside the cup to heat the air inside causing the vacuum.   The flame is removed from the cup, and placed over the area to be treated.   The flame is blown-out if only one cup is to be placed or others may be heated with the same flame. The hot cotton ball still contains alcohol and may not be entirely extinguished. Place it on a stable, non-flammable surface.  Practitioners must make sure it cannot ignite and curtains or flammable materials if the flame has persisted.

Timing – The correct amount of time the flame is held inside the cup can be a fine line between too short and too long. If the flame is in the cup for too short a time, it will not create sufficient negative pressure for suction. If the flame is in the cup for too long, the lip of the cup can become very hot and possibly burn the client. Until you have enough practice at cupping and the time needed to cause the vacuum needed is practitioners should always err on the flame occupying the cup for a shorter period of time. If insufficient suction occurs, the process can always be repeated.

Suction Cautions and Contraindications
No matter which method you choose the fire cupping or suction pump method to apply the cups, the therapist must avoid cupping’s contraindications and be careful with the degree of suction used.

Bruising – Stationary cupping typically causes more bruising than massage cupping do to the length of time the cup is in place.  Either technique can leave large, unsightly bruises in the cups’ wake. A good pre-talk and careful application can prevent surprised and angry recipients, make sure to discuss this possibility with your client prior to using this modality.

Degree of suction – Getting adequate suction is key to the effectiveness of cupping. Although, too strong of a suction could damage the tissue or even create a cup kiss or  blister. Cupping’s intensity depends upon the several factors the speed the cup is placed on the skin when the flame has been removed, the intensity of the flame , some alcohols burn hotter than others, and the cup size.  Practicing the balance between these variables will help the therapist determine a safe cupping routine. Bodyworkers will find that it is very challenging to obtain suction over small surfaces or irregular angles, thin muscles or on areas with lots of body hair.  Different cup sizes can be used to obtain the best results.

Contra-indications – Are present with any modality that strongly invigorates the circulation and stimulates the body.  Cupping like massage should not be done on a client with a fever, convulsions or cramps, applied to allergic skin conditions, open sores or large blood vessels.  Cupping is contraindicated on the abdomen or lower back of pregnant women or on those with a bleeding disorder. It should not be applied to the interior of the forearm, major arteries or other areas where pulling the blood flow from the area can cause harm.

Cupping is a relatively simple technique and can be learned by any bodywork professional but since it can do deep tissue work and change the flow of blood and stir up toxins its use should be only applied by properly trained professionals.

Massage CE Resources has the skill necessary to teach you how to swiftly and safely master the forms of massage cupping.  Contact us  at 214-695-1120 For classes in Massage Cupping is the place to go to experience the wonders of Cupping massage.


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