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Cupping in Physical Therapy

Many of you probably saw the cup marks on Michael Phelps during the Olympics or maybe you’ve seen those red/purplish circles on other athletes! Cupping has gained a lot of hype recently, but it’s actually been around for a long time.

As a physical therapist, I use myofascial decompression and cupping therapy, which is different than traditional cupping. I also always combine myofascial decompression/cupping with specific, individualized exercises to create lasting effects and changes!

Myofascial decompression and cupping use suction cups to create a negative pressure effect, thus lifting the tissues (i.e. decompression) rather than compressing the tissues (i.e. massages, myofascial release, IASTM)

Decompression creates space within the tissue layers for improved mobility. Often with injury, inflammation, or impaired movement patterns over time, our skin, muscles, and fascia become very tight & a lot less mobile! This is where decompression comes in to help release the tight tissues, improve blood flow to the region to facilitate healing, and can also improve trigger points!

We can see immediate changes in the neuromuscular system which provide for temporary pain relief!

What is Traditional Cupping Therapy?!

Traditional cupping has been around for centuries, you may have heard of “fire” cupping or “wet” cupping. Acupuncturists use glass fire cups along with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat a variety of conditions! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping is often combined with acupuncture, herbs, and other traditional remedies. These techniques are passive in nature, meaning the cups are placed and left on for a certain period of time.

Traditional cupping is based on the goal of restoring energy flows and balance in the system. This can be beneficial, however it is not the same as myofascial decompression cupping therapy!

Myofascial Decompression (MFD) Cupping

For myofascial decompression cupping, we still use the suction cups, however it is considered “dry” cupping. As a physical therapist, I also use my skill of movement to help create physiological changes! I use a manual pump so I can adjust the amount of lift occurring to the tissues. I determine cup placement based on anatomy and the person’s individual restrictions, pain, injury, etc. After I place the cups, I often have the individual perform active movements using their muscles in order to create changes in the neuromuscular system. I always follow this up with specific exercises to improve movement patterns and create lasting changes!

Myofascial decompression cupping is NOT meant to be performed in isolation, which is why I always prescribe neuromuscular reeducation exercises in combination with it. It is important for the patient to continue these exercises to maintain their ROM, mobility, strength, stability, etc. in order to improve their movement patterns!

If you are a new patient or have a new injury, a physical therapy evaluation is recommended. Myofascial decompression can be included in this session as necessary.

I also offer 30 minute myofascial decompression cupping sessions, which are meant for existing or previous patients with no new injuries! These include specific exercise prescription, which the patient then must continue to perform following these sessions for best results!

Benefits of Myofascial Decompression

  • Mobilize scar tissue, myofascial release

  • Improve blood flow/circulation to the area by increasing space between the tissues

  • Improve ROM

  • Reduce painful trigger points

  • Increase muscle and fascial mobility

  • Decreases pain

  • Improves recovery times

  • Improve functional mobility/movement quality

Myofascial decompression is extremely beneficial! It can be used on a variety of conditions including contractures, postural issues, muscle tightness/tension, ROM/mobility impairments, chronic pain, neck/back pain, shoulder pain, chronic hamstring tightness/increased tone, etc.

Call 614-437-9002 or Email to schedule!


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