Cupping is generally painless and many say is more effective than massage for muscle problems. Cupping pulls blood to a region to stimulate healing. It is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles.
Cupping helps the tissue develop new blood flow and causes anti-inflammatory chemicals in the body. Versions of Cupping can be found in many cultures from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
As we age, especially after 40 years old, our body begins to break down. This includes loss of muscle, adhesions in fascia and decrease in blood flow. You can see this as your muscle tone decreases, we get stiffer and wrinkles start to appear in new places. As we move less and decrease our physical activity the blood supply to tissues decrease and the fascia gets knotted and scarred up further limiting movement and becoming a vicious cycle.
Putting cups over a region helps the body reverse some of these effects. Initially it pulls blood into an area. The tissues get saturated with fresh blood while the vacuum pulls stagnant blood out of the area. You can see this in the hickey like appearance that is typically left behind. You may have a black and blue appearance that is rarely painful.
As new blood is forced into the tissues around the cups the body will begin to develop new blood vessels called neovascularization, new blood vessel formation. As the new vessels form they will have the capability to feed the tissues with nutrient and oxygen.
Something else happens early in this process as well. It is called sterile inflammation. Now many hear the word inflammation and think it is a bad thing. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Inflammation is the first line of healing. The body releases white blood cells, platelets, fibroblasts and other healing chemicals to promote healing. When the vacuum occurs it causes separation of the different layers of tissue which can cause micro trauma and tearing. The healing chemicals I mentioned above get released and stimulate healing. The inflammation is not chronic nor is it bad.