Have you tried massage cupping? This ancient treatment is making a modern health debut

FEATURE — Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps made a splash during the 2016 Olympic Summer Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for something other than his swimming ability. The decorated swimmer had noticeable large red circles on his skin that looked like giant bruises.

Phelps and other athletes representing the United States were using what is known as cupping therapy to reduce muscle inflammation and stimulate the recovery process.

A client receives the massage cupping therapy at Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness, St. George, Utah | Photo by Jacque Heaton, St. George News

While the method is enjoying a modern day debut among athletes and celebrities, it is actually an ancient technique dating back thousands of years that was used by Chinese as well as Egyptian and Greek cultures.

Traditional cupping therapy was and still is done with a bowl that is heated either by boiling in hot water or by lighting a fire underneath it to create suction so the bowl sticks to the skin and provides negative pressure on the muscles and tissue.

The therapy was used to stimulate blood flow and remove toxins from the body but it was also used as a way to remove pus or blood in the treatment of boils as well as in some ancient surgical techniques.

Massage cupping is a technique that simulates ancient cupping therapies using suction cups made from malleable plastic or silicone.

The use of the malleable suction or vacuum cups allows a licensed massage therapist to provide similar benefits to a deep tissue massage without pushing down into the muscles, which can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Jacque Heaton, a massage therapist at Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness, is trained and licensed in the Ace Massage Cupping method developed by Anita Shannon, a licensed massage and bodywork therapist.

Heaton has been a licensed massage therapist for 10 years and has been using the massage cupping treatment since she was certified in 2015.

Though she enjoys helping her clients feel relaxed and rejeuvenated, Heaton, along with the other massage therapists at Synergy, have had extra education to provide more medical-based massages that help with postoperative recovery and rehabilitation after injury or illness.

Many of Synergy’s clients are referred by doctors or chiropractors, Heaton said, people who have completed physical therapy and need a little extra help releasing tension in their muscles or tissues.

“One of the great things about massage cupping is we can put the cups there and we can get a great result with removing adhesions and scar tissue,” she said.

Some of the primary benefits of the massage cupping technique include increased blood flow and better circulation, loosening of scar tissue, excessive fluid drainage and removal of toxins. By using suction and creating negative pressure on the tissue, a person can experience reduced muscle inflammation, reduced pain and better muscle movement.

Beyond all the touted benefits, a cupping massage therapy session also feels good, Heaton said, adding that in everything they do at Synergy they try to bring a balance between the medical benefits and the relaxation and rejeuvenation massage therapies bring. It is about overall health and wellness.

In a massage cupping therapy session, the cups are used with oil or lotion to allow the cups to glide along the surface of the skin akin to a regular massage. For more problem areas, the cups are suctioned to a specific spot, sometimes using a vacuum gun, and are left stationary for a few minutes.

This 2016 photo shows U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps in the 200 Butterfly at the 2016 Olympic Rio Games. “Cup kisses” from cupping therapy can be seen along his shoulder and arm areas. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 2015 | Photo by Fernando Frazão / Agência Brasil via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

The second method can often result in the red marks seen on Phelps and some celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow. The marks are what massage therapists call a “cup kiss” and are the manifestation of the toxins and stagnant fluids being released. They are not bruises or broken capillaries and, though they can look alarming, they will fade within a few hours to a few days.

Massage cupping can also be employed on the face for a massage-facial-cupping treatment. In the massage-facial-cupping treatment, smaller cups are used to remove skin and tissue toxins, create lift and stimulate collagen growth.

“It’s like a miniface-lift,” Heaton said.

Another surprising use for massage cupping therapy is as an aid in cellulite reduction and even weight loss.

At Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness, Heaton offers an eight-session body contouring therapy using cupping in conjunction with essential oils and cocooning. Using the suction of the cups to open pores allows the essential oils to sink into the body; and over the course of the eight sessions, Heaton said a person can lose from 1-3 inches.

This therapy, using a different combination of essential oils, can also be employed to help a person quit smoking.

Though cupping therapies have existed throughout the ages, there are still many who dismiss the methods as hokey. Heaton herself said she was once a total nonbeliever in the efficacy of cupping and all the declarations of its benefits. The proof, she said, has emerged as she has implemented the therapy in her massage practice and seen how it has benefited her clients.

When performed by a licensed and certified practitioner, massage cupping is safe and beneficial for anyone from children to the elderly – though therapists will take extra precautions with people taking blood thinners and clients who have low blood pressure.

Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness has two therapists who are certified in the massage cupping therapy. It is extremely important to be sure your therapist is certified to use the method, Heaton said, to avoid complications from possible misuse.

About Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness

At Synergy, energy, intention and knowledge combine to provide clients with a unique therapeutic massage and fitness experience in a private, safe and comfortable environment.

Massage therapists, personal trainers and nutritionists work togther to help clients achieve their personal fitness and wellness goals. And each specialist remains committed to continuing education in their field and is up-to-date on the latest tecniques and sciences.

Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness is located at 1495 S. Black Ridge Drive in St. George. For more information or to book an appointment call 435-688-2554 or visit the Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness website.

• S P O N S O R E D   C O N T E N T  •

Resources

  • Synergy Massage and Personal Fitness | Address: 1495 S. Black Ridge Drive, St. George | Telephone: 435-688-2554 | Website.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.