Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings South Jersey

Cupping: A Reverse Massage: A Solution for Pain, Colds and More

Jan 02, 2016 12:48PM ● By Melisa Skyrm, MAc, Licensed Acupuncturist

Tight muscles or areas of the body, whether due to injury, tension, emotional stress, repetitive stress or structural issues, can block the flow of energy and blood to an area. According to Chinese medicine, these blockages are what cause pain.

An analogy given to clients is that of a hose. If a hose is turned on, the water will flow freely through the hose and the water pressure on the other end will match the output of the faucet. If a kink develops in the hose, less water will come out the other side; it causes a buildup of pressure on the side of the hose before the kink and too little flow on the other end of the hose. In an individual, the area above the kink will be too full and will be painful; many times, the pain will be sharp. The area below the kink will be deficient in the amount of energy needed to flow and to feed those areas, causing weakness, fatigue, numbness and a dull ache or pain. The goal is to keep the blood and qi, or energy, flowing to all areas of the body.  In Chinese medicine, this is done with many different techniques: acupuncture, Gua sha, Tui Na (Chinese medical massage), herbs, topical liniments and oils, or with cupping.  

Cupping is a technique that is used in Chinese medicine but has also been used by many other cultures as well. Clients from India, Poland, Italy and Central America have had parents or grandparents that use or had used cupping. It has been recorded at least 3,500 years ago in Egyptian hieroglyphics. It’s used not only for muscular pain, but also to increase range of motion; to help with colds, coughs and asthma; to reduce cellulite; to help heal scars; and to detoxify the body. For clients that are in extreme pain, such as after a car accident, when even slight touch causes jumping, flinching or aggravation of pain, a form of cupping can help to calm the nervous system down and, thereby, also reduce anxiety.  

Cupping is performed with glass cups that are thick like milk glass, bamboo cups, ceramic cups, metal bowls (India), and newer versions use silicone cups or plastic cups.  

The goal is to draw blood from the deeper levels of tissue to bring to the surface. It’s like a reverse massage that gives similar benefits as a deep tissue massage but without as much pain.  Where there is tight tissue, blood flow is not circulating optimally, so the idea is to move the blood, break up scar tissue and to help the areas heal and relax. This is done either with a suction mechanism on one of the cups or by creating a vacuum in the cup with a flame. The flame is held in the cup to create heat in the cup and a vacuum, the flame is then withdrawn and the cup is placed on the skin. The vacuum will draw some of the tissue into the cup and will increase blood flow into the area.  

The cup can be left stationary or oil can be applied to perform Running/Gliding Cupping that feels like a massage.  This is great for back muscles, whereas stationary cupping is wonderful to release IT Bands or to help with post-car accident pain.  The intensity of the vacuum can be adjusted by the practitioner if the cups feel too tight.  The areas where cupping has been performed will become pink, red or purple. The darkness reflects the intensity of the condition and can last for up to 10 days.

The results from cupping occur very quickly, and many feel an immediate decrease in their pain and an increase in their range of motion. Cupping has been used by many for generations with great success for a variety of conditions. If one is very tight, has decreased range of motion, has a cough and cold, suffers from back pain or frozen shoulder, or is an athlete that’d like to increase performance levels, cupping could be a wonderful solution.

To schedule a Cupping session contact Melisa Skyrm at Regenerate Health and Wellness, 2 Sheppard Rd Ste 500, Voorhees, 609-332-1324, or visit

Upcoming Events Near You
February 2020


Global Brief
Health Brief