Ask St. Eden: Does Cupping Work for Muscle Recovery and Why?


If you train or work out regularly, you probably experience your fair share of muscle soreness. Non-athletes and those less active can also suffer from muscle soreness due to injury, surgery, sciatica, and disorders like fibromyalgia. 

Cupping therapy, an ancient Chinese practice, has become popular amongst athletes in recent years—you may recall the mysterious purple circles on Michael Phelps’s body at the 2016 Summer Olympics—and although it falls outside the realm of conventional therapy, many people swear by it. 

What is cupping?
Cupping, as the name suggests, is the use of cups to expand the capillaries underneath the skin through a suction process. This process increases blood flow to muscles, promoting recovery. Cupping is said to increase oxygen, immune cells, and other healthy nutrients to the affected areas, which in turn may decrease inflammation and spark the body’s natural healing response.

What are the benefits of cupping?
Besides flushing toxins from affected areas prompting your muscles to recover faster, other positive post-cupping results include decreased pain, tension, and inflammation in and around muscles. Some people even turn to cupping for migraines, fibromyalgia, and other types of chronic pain, as it’s said to be effective in relieving symptoms in some cases. 

Wet vs. dry cupping
There are two different types of cupping. Dry cupping uses heat or an air pump to vacuum seal the cups to your dry skin, while wet cupping uses a needle to pin-prick the skin underneath the cup before or after suction, drawing out blood. The two methods produce essentially the same benefits, except that wet cupping aims to replace “bad blood” (toxins) in the body with fresh, healthy blood.

Things to know before you go
After cups are placed, they’ll stay on the body for anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour or more, depending on your treatment goals. Cupping will produce bruises/discoloration of the skin immediately following and up to a week or so after the procedure. Because the process generates healthy inflammation to promote healing, you’re likely to experience some discomfort or fatigue for a day or so afterward while the body recovers. Take care and drink plenty of water to help the recovery process along. 

Have you tried cupping for muscle recovery? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!

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