Cupping Therapy Question and Answer Series
Thank you for joining us for another installment of our Cupping Therapy Q&A Series. Here, we feature clinical questions submitted to us by ACE Massage Cupping Therapy practitioners. Our educators offer some brief insight on the topic so that you can expand your working knowledge on this revolutionary bodywork therapy and its benefits.
If possible, could you help me to locate some information about massages cupping specifically the “parking” of the cups. Parking of the cups has been the main area of concern. Some say that it is only in the scope of an acupuncturist and others say it is dual (massage and acupuncture). What are the benefits to the client and therapist for parking the cup? What would be the average time a cup should be parked?
Thanks so much for your inquiry and I am happy to elaborate on this subject. Parking of cups in bodywork is limited to three minutes maximum. Parked cups are not the same as stationary cups, which are left on in TCM practices for 15 minutes or more.
In TCM stationary cupping, the suction used is very strong, where “parking” the cup uses gentle suction to lift and hold soft tissue while the joint or spine is mobilized using massage techniques. This has helped address clients who have had a frozen shoulder due to a soft tissue impingement by a bony prominence.
Parking the cup gently and slowly separates soft tissue layers such as scar tissue that has adhered to bony structures, which is a very prevalent post-arthroscopic condition. As the cup sits with moderate suction for up to three minutes, the scar tissue is held in a stretch/traction and often releases from the bony structure within the three minute period. We also use this technique with burn tissue.
Parking the cup is the equivalent of manual traction and holding of the tissue until it releases, which is very effective but would be hard on the hands.
Parked cups are also used to “hold” trigger points, freeing up the therapist’s hands to perform other soft tissue techniques while the point is held with suction. The limit for parking is always three minutes. A stationary cup can draw a large amount of congestion into an area, and the goal of vacuum manual therapies is to disperse congestion.
Another application of a parked cup is to pull a deep structure such as a cyst closer to the skin surface to avoid surgical incisions into the surrounding muscle. We have had many clients who had shorter surgery times and faster recovery because the cyst was close to the surface where the surgeon could easily remove it.
All of these applications, and more that I have not listed here, are kept strictly within the boundaries of massage and bodywork. We do not teach any TCM theory, out of respect for the complexity of that medical system. ACE is very clear about the boundary between a three minute parked cup and the stationary work done by TCM physicians. We have had Acupuncturists come to our classes to add the massage/soft tissue aspect we teach to their traditional use of the cupping tool.
I know there are other educational groups that do teach stationary cupping work, but I drew a boundary quite early with the ACE techniques. I found the cups when I worked in a TCM clinic and was astonished at the effects on soft tissue. I was doing work directed by the TCM doctors, but the side effects got my attention and I developed different techniques using the vacuum cup to mimic massage.
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About the Author
Anita J. Shannon has been a licensed massage therapist and licensed cosmetologist since 1983. She specializes in skin care, body treatments, clinical aromatherapy, and various modalities of massage therapy. She has been a national educator since 1990, appearing at numerous national spa and massage conventions each year. For four years, Anita appeared as a co-host on the television program “Health Options Today” with Dr. Mitchell Ghen.
Anita is the founder and director of Advanced Continuing Education (ACE), an NCBTMB CE provider established in 2001. Anita has presented hundreds of workshops on ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping therapy throughout the US and internationally since 2002. Anita has been published on the subject of cupping therapy in industry publications such as Massage Today, Massage Magazine, and Les Nouvelles Esthetiques. She has published two educational videos on ACE Massage Cupping bodywork, two on MediCupping therapy and one on TheraCupping home care, and is currently writing a book on VacuTherapies. In 2011, Anita was inducted into the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame.
In 2016, Anita opened ACE Institute Online, an online education portal designed to bring cupping therapy training into the digital age. Since its debut in 2016, ACE Institute Online has introduced the revolutionary techniques found in ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping to over ten thousand students worldwide.
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