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Cupping Therapy and the Athlete

Home News & Videos JAG Physical Therapy Blog Cupping Therapy and the Athlete

By: Vanessa Mahoney, MBA, MA, LAT, ATC

Cupping therapy, or cupping, has  been a hot topic for researchers and health practitioners because of its various purported properties. Although cupping dates back to ancient Chinese therapy, cupping in sports caught the world by storm when Gold-medalist USA swimmer, Michael Phelps, was seen with strange purple circles on his body in the 2016 Olympic Games (Rio 2016). The question that I hope to answer in this article is how does cupping therapy benefit the athlete?

Cupping therapy releases muscular tension. If athletes are feeling uncomfortable due to muscle tension, restricted muscle and joint movements, myofascial or connective tissue stiffness, and muscular pain, suction cup treatment for athletes can help relieve such symptoms. Cupping dilates blood vessels and small capillaries, increasing the tissue blood flow to prompt muscle relaxation. This leads to faster recovery times as well as the ability to train more effectively.

Cupping therapy helps the body get rid of toxins from the body. Cupping lifts the muscles and tissues, welcoming oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood and lymphatic fluid. By doing this, it also reduces health-deteriorating metals from your blood to reduce toxicity levels and aids in the body healing faster.

Cupping therapy helps decrease pain. Non-aggressive cupping techniques can offer universally calming results to the entire central nervous system due to its relaxing effect on sensory receptors. Using cups with soothing applications can evoke a tranquil response to the central nervous system. Once cupping begins to take effect, the peripheral repercussions can have a profound effect on the entire central nervous system, thereby inducing the body into deep relaxation. The Pain Gate Theory also suggests that the cups stimulate neurons (through heat and suction) capable of blocking pain signals sent to excited pain nerve fibers ultimately reducing pain.

Due to its many benefits, cupping in the athletic population has become quite popular. It produces faster healing time, reduces muscular tightness, and reduces toxicity, as well as being effective in treating pain and relaxing the body. No wonder it is a popular treatment choice with athletes and their health care providers.

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