How Deep is Your Cup?

How Deep is Your Cup?

Have you ever wondered at what depth the cups should be applied to get the best effect on the body?

stationary cupping on the hamstrings of a martial artist

How about how deep the cups actually penetrate into the body?

In my 20+ years of experience of cupping therapy, I have learned from a number of teachers from both East and Western Traditions. Each one could give you a different answer to these questions.

So, one could say that there is no right answer, but many different answers to these questions.

There will be a number of factors to consider when deciding how deeply to apply your cups. These factors will impact the bodys’ ability to respond to the treatment. They will also effect the quality of your results from the treatment that you perform.

According to a study performed by Tham and Lee, a cupping device placed on the body with deep suction will cause changes up to 6cm below the surface of the cup.  This is quite deep! With some understanding of anatomy and physiology we must consider the impact that a cup could have on certain body areas.

When working on the thoracic rib cage, the body is protected by this bony structure and performing deep cupping is generally quite safe.   Read about the cautions and contraindications for cupping.

When working on a body area that is not protected by the thoracic rib cage, it is a different story. If a sensitive body area is being treated (neck, lumbar spine, inside of the limbs, chest, face, and abdomen) then lighter suction should be applied. Practitioners should always be aware of the amount of suction that they are generating.  It is also very important to check with the client to make sure that the treatment is comfortable.  

How Deep Should I Go?

It depends on where you are working, what condition you are working on AND the constitution of the client.

If you are performing cupping to help with lymphatic circulation in order to help the body flush metabolic waste, then the suction that you will use will be quite different than for other treatments. For shoulder pain, you may find that one client has a better response to a particular depth of treatment than another.

If your client has thin skin, is prone to bruising, or has a complicated medical history then caution should be used.

Gliding cupping of the back

The key is to work on the body at the level where the problem exists.

This is not always easy to determine before you start the treatment. As you become a more seasoned practitioner you will develop a sensitivity to the response of the body through the cups. Applying the cups with a soft and relaxed hand will allow the practitioner to develop a feeling for the congestion that lies under the surface of the body. Once you develop this feeling the need to always apply deep cups will disappear. When you apply the cups more deeply than the level of congestion, the treatment may be ineffective, or even painful.

The cups don’t lie

Shakira wasn’t talking about cups, but she got me inspired!!

With so many years of teaching and clinical practice, I am still surprised sometimes by the messages that the cups are giving.

Often times cupping marks will show up in unexpected areas. When asking the client about their health history, there is always a story. Sometimes the story is so old that the client doesn’t even remember right away. When cupping marks show up in one area and not another it is usually a sign that there is an old injury. Cupping marks indicate that congestion is being pulled to the surface.

It isn’t always easy to determine how the client is going to respond to the cupping treatment. I always recommend that newer practitioners
to air on the side of caution. Those who are less confident with their understanding of the systems of the body should avoid sensitive areas. Each time a client is treated with cupping, more tissue is released. In this way it can have a cumulative effect.

I also advise anyone who is practicing cupping therapy on others to take professional training in cupping therapy. There is a lot to understand in order to perform a safe and effective cupping therapy treatment. Proper disinfection, cautions and contraindications, and also the most appropriate treatments for cupping should be thoroughly understood.

For information about our live and online training programs, check out our website.

For high quality reviewed and tested cupping products, check out our online store.

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