Myofascial Cupping for Pain Management: What Research Says

A man getting his back massaged by a massage therapist.

Introduction

Myofascial cupping, an alternative therapy gaining popularity, holds promise for easing pain and boosting overall well-being. This practice employs strategically placed cups on the skin, creating a negative pressure that enhances blood flow and addresses musculoskeletal issues.

In this blog, we’ll explore the details of myofascial cupping, methods, effectiveness, and more.

What is Myofascial Cupping?

Myofascial cupping, a therapeutic technique centered on the fascia—a connective tissue surrounding muscles and nerves—utilizes the power of negative pressure. By applying suction with cups on the skin, this therapy effectively targets tension release, improves blood circulation, and stimulates the body’s innate healing processes, supporting the health of blood vessels and contributing to balanced blood pressure.

How is it different than other manual therapies?

Unlike the compressive forces that are typically applied during other forms of manual therapy, the negative pressure within the cup visibly lifts the skin away from the body.

Suggested Cupping Methods

Static and dynamic cupping.

The application of myofascial cupping, a vital aspect of cupping treatment for various medical conditions, involves a spectrum of techniques tailored to individual needs. Practitioners adeptly employ static and dynamic methods, each serving distinct purposes.

Static Cupping

Placement Strategy: Cups are carefully positioned on specific points corresponding to the affected areas.

Duration: The cups remain stationary for a predetermined period, allowing the vacuum effect to work on targeted tissues.

Purpose: Static cupping aims to promote localized circulation, release muscle tension, and encourage the flow of vital energy throughout the treated areas.

Dynamic Cupping

Movement Integration: Dynamic cupping introduces movement into the therapy. Practitioners may glide, lift, or rotate the cups across the skin.

Stimulation Technique: This method actively stimulates tissues by mobilizing the cups, creating a dynamic and rhythmic effect on the underlying muscles.

Purpose: Dynamic cupping is particularly effective in enhancing flexibility, addressing adhesions, and promoting a more comprehensive release of tension.

Individualized Approach

The selection between static and dynamic cupping methods is nuanced and depends on the unique requirements of each individual. A practitioner’s expertise plays a crucial role in determining the most suitable technique, ensuring a personalized and effective myofascial cupping experience for the client.

Is Myofascial Cupping Effective for Chronic Pain?

Research on myofascial cupping’s effectiveness in managing musculoskeletal pain uncovers a versatile approach. Cupping may help decrease pain by acting as a counter stimulant to inhibit pain signals from traveling to the central nervous system.  The suction technique also releases tense muscles, promising relief from common contributors like muscle tension. Many clients discover cupping to be a relaxing experience, enjoying the profound release of tissues, pain reduction, and improved range of movement.

Clinical studies show that cupping showed a significant 28% pain reduction and a notable 34% improvement in function compared to no intervention. Myofascial decompression showed better results compared to using heat and SMR applications.

Other Conditions Myofascial Cupping Can Treat

Continuous motion physical therapy.

The therapy’s versatility allows it to be considered as a complementary approach for addressing a variety of conditions, highlighting the benefits of cupping:

Musculoskeletal Disorders

Myofascial cupping is frequently integrated into treatment plans for musculoskeletal disorders, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, and myofascial pain syndrome. The therapy’s ability to alleviate tight muscles and improve circulation contributes to managing symptoms and enhancing overall comfort.

Sports Injuries and Recovery

The therapy aids in reducing soreness of muscle tissue, promoting faster recovery from injuries, and enhancing flexibility—key elements for optimal athletic performance.

Scar Tissue Management

In some instances, myofascial cupping addresses scar tissue, promoting better tissue mobility and reducing the tightness associated with scars. This can be particularly relevant for individuals recovering from surgeries or injuries.

Cupping therapy contraindications

While myofascial cupping is generally considered safe, there are some risks and contraindications to be aware of. Individuals with skin conditions, skin lesions, sensitive skin, blood disorders, bleeding disorders, varicose veins, those on blood thinners, experiencing muscle aches, or pregnancy should consult with a healthcare professional before undergoing cupping therapy.

This precaution is particularly important for individuals prone to dark purple marks, indicating potentially broken blood vessels.

Consult Continuous Motion Physical Therapy

A man is getting a back massage in a doctor's office.

If you’re considering myofascial cupping as part of your wellness journey, consult with the experts at Continuous Motion Physical Therapy. Our certified physical therapists, trained professionals in myofascial cupping, can assess your individual needs and provide a tailored treatment plan to address your specific concerns. Ensure a safe and effective experience by trusting your wellness journey with our qualified team.

Conclusion

Myofascial cupping offers a unique path to holistic healing with diverse benefits. While not a cure-all, it shows promise in managing musculoskeletal issues and promoting overall well-being. As with any alternative therapy, consult qualified practitioners and healthcare professionals to determine suitability.

FAQs

Q1: What to expect after cupping?

A1: After myofascial cupping, it’s common to experience temporary skin discoloration or circular marks where the cups are applied. This is a normal response and usually resolves within a few days. Some individuals may also feel immediate relief from muscle tension, while others might experience a sense of relaxation. It’s essential to stay hydrated and avoid exposing treated areas to extreme temperatures after a session.

Q2: Is myofascial cupping painful?

A2: While some individuals may feel a mild pulling or stretching sensation during myofascial cupping, it is generally not considered painful. The degree of discomfort can vary based on individual sensitivity and the specific areas being treated. It’s important to communicate openly with the practitioner during the session to adjust the suction levels if the sensation becomes too intense.

Q3: How many sessions of myofascial cupping are typically recommended?

A3: Myofascial cupping therapy showed a significant 28% pain reduction and a notable 34% improvement in function compared to no intervention. The recommended number of myofascial cupping sessions varies depending on individual needs and the nature of the condition being addressed. Some individuals may experience immediate relief after one session, while others might benefit from a series of sessions for cumulative effects. The practitioner often determines the frequency of sessions based on the specific goals of the therapy and the individual’s response to treatment.

A man in a suit and tie smiling.
Author

Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

Helping active people STAY active

Want To Get Relief Faster?

Choose which option works best for you

Monday-Friday 8am-6pm by Appointment

The front of a building with a sign that says continual sports.
Scroll to Top

Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

A professional portrait of a smiling woman with medium-length brown hair, wearing a black zip-up jacket with a "continuous motion physical therapy" logo, in a gym setting.

Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

therapy in pregnancy

Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

A man and woman looking at an ipad in a gym.

Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

skilled thrapist

Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

weightlifting in physical therapy

Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified