Myofascial cupping is the application of plastic cups with vacuum suction to draw up the soft tissue and passively stretch tissue. This version of cupping differs from traditional Chinese medicine in that it is targeting the musculoskeletal system rather than the meridian systems and achieves suction via a vacuum pump as opposed to a naked flame.
Treatment begins with the application of emollient to the skin to allow for an easy glide over the skin. The cup is applied to the skin and the pressure within the cup is increased by suctioning out air so the skin and superficial muscle layer within the cup are drawn up.
This drawing method helps to create a separation between the layers of skin and soft tissue. Several cups can be applied at a time and can be left stationary or moved along the tissue.
There should be minimal pain during treatment and little to no bruising, although the skin can have temporary red rings from where the stationary cups were placed. The cups are cleaned after every use. Cupping is often used in conjunction with dry needling and massage.
Cupping applies a negative pressure to tissues, as opposed to massage which applies a positive pressure by pushing into the body. By creating a negative pressure a passive stretch is applied to the tissue which aims to increase tissue range of motion, increase nutrient rich blood supply to the area and improves fluid movement.
Myofascial cupping is used for myofascial release, trigger point therapy, stretching muscles and fascia and in the acute phase of injury. Specific lower limb conditions that can benefit from cupping include plantar fasciitis and iliotibial band compression syndrome.