Did you know that many of our physical therapy clinics offer myofascial decompression (MFD) treatments? This treatment is more commonly known as “cupping.” Cupping has been used for centuries, in many different cultures, with many different techniques. Some cultures that use these techniques include the Chinese and Egyptians, as well as many countries within South America.
The origin of cupping is still being researched and discussed. The materials used to employ the technique can range from hollowed-out animal bone to seashells, nuts, bamboo, or clay. It wasn’t until later that cupping used glass or plastic.
Each culture uses different techniques that involve treatment for internal and external problems in the body, such as depression, stomach complications, or liver disease. Popular techniques from traditional Chinese methods use glass and fire to heat the cups to create a warming element that brings increased blood flow to help treat liver disease, depression, anxiety, and even cellulite.
Cupping at Physical Therapy Clinics
In physical therapy, we use a more Western perspective in which cupping is used to stretch out tight muscles and treat trigger points (tender areas from knotted muscles). Secondary benefits can result in an improved range of motion in your joints and decreased scar tissue from surgery or trauma. This treatment is also used in a more superficial way, closer to the surface of the skin, to treat tendons, ligaments, muscle, and fascia (thicker tissue).
Different cup sizes are used depending on what type of result a therapist is looking for. For example, if the goal is to treat a specific tendon or ligament, or even a trigger point, a smaller cup might be used. If the therapist is treating a larger muscle group, such as the hamstrings, larger cups will be used for more surface area.
A static or consistent hold of the cups being placed on a body part for a certain amount of time is a more common technique when using MFD to improve general tissue mobility. If a therapist is seeking to increase deep muscular mobility, some other cupping techniques can include applying the cups and then performing passive or active movements of a limb or body part for a more aggressive approach to decreased tissue restrictions.
One benefit of cupping versus other treatments, like dry needling (using acupuncture needles to treat deep tissue restrictions), is cupping usually is more comfortable for the patient. Research of MFD has also discovered there are some natural benefits that come along with cupping. These include increased blood flow to the treatment area or even a release of endorphins in the body that help with healing and recovery.
One downside to myofascial decompression treatment are the bruises left behind; this is because the cups generate suction, causing circular bruises. Most patients are okay with this; however, some aren’t. Some patients get increased tenderness in the treated areas as well, but most patients recover from the bruising after a couple days. Recovery time can vary depending on how easily you bruise or heal.
A frequent question that patients ask is, “can I be treated with cupping every visit?” The answer is it depends. Factors to consider are the area that is being treated and if there are still bruises present. If cupping is performed too frequently without letting the skin recover from the bruising, skin irritation or break down of tissue can occur.
When you’re seeking different types of manual therapy, myofascial decompression can be a great treatment technique to perform when trying to loosen up restricted areas quickly and effectively. It is important to remember cupping isn’t for everyone; results vary depending on the patient, the area being treated, and the end result. Myofascial decompression is a good way to loosen up fibers in restricted fascia or reduce scarring and should be followed by hands-on myofascial release or soft tissue massage. It can be a great tool for patients with all different types of injuries.
If you’re interested in receiving cupping as a treatment, contact us to schedule a free injury assessment appointment at one of our physical therapy clinics. Just ask about the treatment during your free consultation. We’ll be happy to let you know if we think you would be a good candidate.
Workshop packet for MFD Techniques Level 1 course by Christopher Daprato, PT, DPT, SCS, CSCS, PES and Christy Kennedy MS, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M.
“How can you benefit from Myofascial Decompression” by Alin at https://cuppingresource.com/can-benefit-myofascial-decompression
“New methods of Myofascial Decompression (Cupping) for Athletes” by Brandi Ross at https://breakingmuscle.com/fitness/nw-methods-of-myofascial-decompression-cupping-for-athletes