Cupping Therapy: An Ancient Massage Therapy

Sep 26, 2023

You might have heard about “cupping” in 2016 because swimmer Michael Phelps made the news for some very distinctive marks on his shoulders and back ( It became a trendy massage treatment, one that hasn’t died down yet. But what is cupping?

What Is Cupping?

Cupping may have become popular around the world in 2016, but it has its roots in the ancient world. One of the oldest medical texts – a papyrus dated to 1550 BC in ancient Egypt ( – mentions cupping. The practice is also found in China, Tibet, Korea, and is even referenced by Hippocrates, one of the most well-known ancient Greek doctors.

The basic practice is using suction to help resolve chronic pain. In China, they believe that this suction helps balance the chi – life energy in your body. In practice, we can observe that it increases blood circulation in the treated areas.

In ancient times, practitioners would burn a bit of paper on your skin and place a cup over it. As the hot air created from the burning cooled, it would create a vacuum effect that would suck some of the skin into the cup. In modern times, many people use cups with tubes to create the vacuum, but some still use the old methods.

How Does Cupping Work?

Exactly how cupping works is unclear. One theory is that the suction attracts white blood cells by stimulating the body to produce nitric oxide and creating artificial inflammation. This triggers the body to go into “repair mode,” rebuilding cells and attacking foreign proteins, such as bacteria. This supposedly has an effect of stimulating your body’s healing. It’s also possible that it works similar to acupuncture, in that it triggers the release of endorphins and other natural chemicals that aid the body in coping with pain, which helps us relax and relieves pains from muscle tension.

What Has Cupping Been Used For?

The main use for cupping has been the relief of chronic pain. As said earlier, cupping is mostly used to relieve tension. It may also boost blood flow in the skin, reduce inflammation, and boost cellular immunity. Other research suggests it may help with acne, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, and herpes zoster (

The complete list of ailments cupping has been used for includes:


What To Expect

You can expect cupping to take 5-10 minutes and will usually be done at the end of a regular massage treatment. Cups will be placed at specific locations on your back. When the suction begins, you can expect there to be some pain. The more muscle tension you experience, the more pain there may be, but it should only last a few seconds. After a while, your body becomes accustomed to the situation and the pain stops.

Afterward, there will be some sensitivity for a while and the cups will likely leave some bruising behind. The bruises fade with time. Afterward, you should find yourself much more relaxed. In rare instances, you may experience dizziness, nausea, or profuse sweating.

Are There Risks?

Cupping is generally safe, but there are times when it should be avoided. One shouldn’t use cupping if the area is injured, especially sunburns, cuts, ulcers, or by people with thin skin or an internal organ disorder. The treatment may worsen these kinds of injuries.

Ranch Hand Massage Offers Many Options

The main focus here at Ranch Hand Massage is, naturally, massages. Offering many add-on packages for those who want more. Cupping is one of these options. I believe in tailoring our services to suit the individual.

If you’re looking to relax, then contact me today. We’ll set up an appointment to help you get some natural healing while you take it easy.

Online scheduling is also available!