Massage Cupping™: An alternative to deep tissue work

Cupping can relieve conditions such as localized edema, sports stress and/or injuries, sluggish colon, cellulite and nervous tension.

by Christina M. Bunning — 

In 2004, Gwyneth Paltrow was photographed at a movie premiere with cupping marks on her back. Intrigued, the public became curious, while the reaction of allopathic practitioners was mixed.

Massage Cupping™ bodywork therapy is not a New Age practice. It is a modified adaptation of cupping therapy, used in ancient times throughout Asia, the Arab world and Eastern Europe. In Asia, cups were crafted from bamboo and animal horns. One of the earliest depictions of cupping is displayed in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Today, it is an effective bodywork modality, which assists in moving and dispersing chi, reducing inflammation, improving sports performance by increasing flexibility, and softening knots in the upper shoulders and back.

Cupping can relieve conditions such as localized edema, sports stress and/or injuries, sluggish colon, cellulite and nervous tension. In addition, it opens pores and readies the skin and underlying tissues to better receive essential oil blends, salves, liniments or analgesics.

The application of the cups is easy, but achieving the desired results requires specific training. After an application of lotion or oil, the cup is applied to the skin and a vacuum is created, which draws the skin and superficial muscle layer into the cup where it it held. The cup is then moved across the surface of the skin, creating warmth and relaxation, and allowing deep penetration into underlying tissue layers. The result is dramatically increased circulation, which loosens adhesions, drains excess fluids and toxins, and strengthens the venous system.

Discoloration of the skin is common during and after a cupping session. The marks are not bruises, nor are they painful. If discoloration appears quickly, it means that internal heat is being brought to the surface and released.

Very dark discoloration is indicative of chronic stagnation of the underlying tissue. Subsequent cupping treatments will increase the integrity of the capillaries as internal heat is dispersed, and the discoloration lessens with each session.

The gentle, negative pressure provided by cupping helps release and dissipate constricted tissue, providing true therapeutic comfort with long-lasting results. Many people who once preferred deep tissue massage receive greater benefits from Massage Cupping™ bodywork therapy because they experience improved range of motion, while preserving their muscle and connective tissue integrity.


Christina M. Bunning is a licensed massage therapist, Karuna I Reiki® Master, and certified Massage Cupping™ practitioner and educator in Scottsdale, Ariz. She also counsels in the areas of holistic health, wellness and intentional living. 480-231-8766 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number  3, Jun/July 2009.

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