Cupping is a great therapy complementary therapy for tight and sore muscles. It is helpful for neck pain, frozen shoulder, and lower back pain, among other health conditions.

Sound intriguing? Michael Phelps used this therapy during the 2016 Rio Olympics as did other Olympic athletes. Roberto Osuna, the Toronto Blue Jay’s saver, was also sporting the telltale suction marks last season. More recently, it came to light that our Justin Trudeau receives cupping treatments. Cupping is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is also part of traditional medicine in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East (where it is known as Hajama).


A cup is placed on the skin. The air inside the cup is heated or removed to create suction. This experience of suction creates space above and around muscles. It is quite a unique therapy – all other bodywork presses inward, such as the thumbs and elbows of a massage therapist. On the other hand, the actions of cupping are upward and outward.

The cupping treatment creates a sustained change in the tissues below the skin. The muscles relax, the fascia loosen and blood flow increases. By the end of the treatment, a significant amount of tension has been resolved. Then over the coming days, the blood that was brought to the surface is reabsorbed. This perfusion is thought to promote healing in the local area.


It feels very soothing, like a deep massage. The suction can sometimes feel strong, but can be adjusted to maintain comfort.


Cupping treatments can reduce pain in the back, along extremities and at joints. Cupping can help heal tissue after an injury. In the Chinese Medicine context, it is used to relieve chest congestion and speed recovery from colds and flu. It is a great modality for sports conditioning, as Michael Phelps appears to have discovered, in that the muscles are kept flexible and with good blood circulation for optimal output.

Consider what cupping can do for you! Contact your local Registered Acupuncturist or TCM Practitioner for more details.

Chirali, Ilkay Zihni Traditional Chinese Medicine Cupping Therapy. Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2007.