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What is Cupping? Is it Good for Runners?

Photo from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Cupping is one of the treatment options provided at Superior Running Medicine and it was one of the most commonly requested treatments when I was working in collegiate sports medicine. Here is a look into what cupping is and what it can do.

Cupping was brought to the public eye in the 2016 Summer Olympics when Michael Phelps’s back displayed some bold cupping bruises. However, cupping was not new in 2016 – it has been a part of traditional Chinese and Eastern medicine for centuries.

The cups are typically made of glass, plastic or silicone and measure about 2-4 inches across. Different sizes are best suited to different body areas. The clinician treating you will use a small pump to attach the cups to your skin. The skin will rise and redden due to blood flowing in to the area. Your therapist might also glide the cups along your skin to create a massaging effect.

There continues to be a lack of solid scientific research that really outlines the benefits of cupping. You will find claims that it can treat everything from arthritis to fertility disorders with very little to back up those claims. What we do know is that it is quite safe for most people when it is performed by a health care provider with appropriate training. The most common side effects are a pinching sensation while the cups are in use and bruising afterwards.

At Superior Running Medicine, I use cupping to treat tight, tense muscles caused by the repetitive nature of running. The areas I most commonly treat are the shoulders, back, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.

Do you have any specific questions about cupping? Please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

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