Cupping bruises to Help You Heal

The Rio Olympics wrapped up last month and these games haven’t disappointed. Many world and Olympic records were broken. Athletes of many nations competed, some becoming overnight house-hold names due to their amazing athleticism and record breaking completions. I always enjoy watching the Olympic games for just this reason, whether summer or winter, the camaraderie, and the fact that anything can happen, keeps me on the edge of my seat.

Many of the Olympic athletes were covered in dark bruises.
Many of the Olympic athletes were covered in dark bruises.
You might have noticed many of the athletes specifically Michael Phelps with large round bruises on their backs and shoulders. These marks are not hickies or the result of some team hazing ritual but from an ancient therapy in Chinese Medicine known as cupping. This therapy isn’t anything new in fact its been around over 1,000 years. Cupping therapy uses glass or plastic cups placed on specific muscles and areas of the body. This helps reduce inflammation, scar tissue, and breaks up adhesions within muscle and tissue fibers. These physiological changes are achieved when the cup is placed on the patient’s skin. A vacuum is created between the cup and skin when air is forced out of the cup. Think of it like a giant hickey. The skin is elevated and blood flows into the suctioned area giving the patient the characteristic bruise/ hickey look. These marks may last a few days even up to a week.


Some time ago I had a shoulder tendonitis issue, which was due to an overuse injury. I had a tough time overcoming this shoulder problem and it actually started to affect my ability to work. It also affected my workout routine. It was extremely painful to do many of the shoulder exercises that I was accustomed to. At this time I was familiar with cupping but I never thought to use it as a possible treatment option. I visited my acupuncturist Meagan Duggan-Bretz at Asian Healing Traditions. She explained to me the benefits of cupping and how it could help my shoulder condition.

When the cups were placed on my shoulder and upper trapezius muscles I didn’t feel any pain or discomfort from them. The areas where the cups were placed felt tight but comfortable. The cups were left in place for 10-15 minutes and once removed the characteristic bruise was present. Some of these areas were much darker than others. Immediately after the session I noticed a difference with my shoulder tendonitis and discomfort. After another treatment and some down time from working out, my shoulder tendonitis completely resolved.

Even though Olympic athletes use cupping as part of their training routine to help recovery. Non-athletes can use this great therapy to help with muscular issues as well.

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