“Cupping,” or myofascial decompression, as we refer to it in the healthcare realm, has become a hot topic treatment intervention in the United States since Michael Phelps, the most successful and decorated swimmer of all time, debuted the infamous circular purple cup marks on his back and shoulders in the 2016 Rio Olympic games. In reality, cupping has been around for centuries in Eastern and Chinese medicine as a treatment intervention.

Chinese medicine has traditionally used cupping for treatment of systemic conditions like: constipation, infection, anxiety, and headaches with the cups placed along the meridian/chakra systems of the body. The modern version of cupping used in Western medicine employs more of a focus on restoring movement asymmetries and restrictions which likely contribute to pain.

The cups themselves are yet another manual therapy skill, similar to dry needling, massage, and instrument-assisted soft tissue techniques, that we use at Cioffredi & Associates in order to reduce pain, improve range of motion, improve blood flow, and reduce muscular and soft tissue restrictions. The cups work to create a negative pressure vacuum over the skin and act to decompress the top layers of skin from the underlying layers of connective tissue/fascia, muscles, and tendons. Often times, we find that pain can come from lack of appropriate sliding and gliding of the connective tissue over top of muscle, or muscle on muscle, which can cause irritation and pain.

Cupping can Help With: Plantar Fasciitis • Low Back Pain • Neck Pain • Knee Replacements • Tennis Elbow • Muscle Strains IT Band Pain • Shoulder Pain Post-Surgery Scar Tissue Mobility

In treatment sessions, the silicone or plastic cups are generally placed over one side of the body over areas that your PT finds to be restricted or tight with massage and palpation. Once the cups are in place and suction is created, we typically take you through movements to elongate the muscle and soft tissue under the cups in order to stretch out and create more free space underneath the cups. The benefits of cupping occur after the treatment is completed, with most clients reporting less pain and stiffness, improved range of motion, and improved ease of motion.

Cupping can provide pain relief and help ease the symptoms of many common disorders of the joints and muscles. You may benefit from cupping if you suffer from neck, shoulder, low back, or foot pain. It’s even been shown to be effective for the symptoms of osteoarthritis!


1. Heiderscheit, B., & Cobian, D. (2016, August 15). Cupping: Why We’re All Seeing Spots. Retrieved from http://www.apta.org/Blogs/PTTransforms/2016/8/15/SeeingSpots/


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