Here’s Why Chinese Cupping Isn’t Just For Elite Athletes, According To An MLB Strength And Conditioning Coach

Does Cupping Therapy Work

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Now that the entire world has been exposed to the fabulous world of cupping in part thanks to our Olympic athletes, it’s time for Coach Pat to help make sense of it all for you Zenbros.

Cupping is a very ancient form of healing and just about every culture all over the world has incorporated some form of cupping or negative pressure  work into their healing practices. From relieving adhesions within constricted layers of tissues to healing the measles, the use of cupping has proved to be a valuable tool in speeding up the healing process. There are basically four types of cupping tools used today and a handful of methods employed by health professionals and Sicilian grandmothers! Let’s explore!

The most common tool is called Chinese or Kangzhu cups. These have a small valve at their top and are pumped to the desired pressure by a hand pump. Typically, these glass or plastic cups are drawn tight and left in place with the tissue being sucked up into them for the purpose of either drawing toxins out of area or pinning one area of tissue while another is distracted or moved through space. Imagine if your shoulder is tight and I pumped a shit ton of cups onto the back of it and moved your shoulder around. This pinning and stretching helps loosen up tissue stuck to itself and I can attest that it works because I’ve used this on many a pitcher’s shoulder and they love it. That’s most likely what you saw on television during the Olympics.

Also common with Chinese medicine practitioners is fire or flash cupping. A flame is applied to the inside of glass cup which creates a negative pressure. Once applied to the skin these are typically held in a place in a specific area for the purpose of drawing out toxins and disease from deep within the body. Once these suckers are pulled off, they might leave a mark ranging from light red to black depending on how toxic your body might be. My grandmother used a similar practice to pull phlegm out of my lungs when I had chest colds as a child. Only she used a mayonnaise jar and the flames from the zippo lighter she used to also light the filter-less Camels she smoked while treating me! So, there’s that.

Cupping theray

Patrick Panico

For the ladies, belletazze cups are used for performing facials and normalizing the skin around the neck and shoulders. It’s a very effective way to turn back the hands of time and return the skin to a healthier state by hydrating superficial layers of skin and moving lymph and other toxins out of areas which are puffy and flaccid. I witnessed firsthand this method in a seminar recently and was amazed at how effective this technique can be. And it’s not just for girls, brothers.

Finally, the simplest and most accessible form of cupping is silicon or Russian cups. These neat little cups can be had on Amazon for around 25 bucks and are so simple even a bromagnan can do it. They look like flying saucers of various sizes. You merely put them over tissue you want to treat and push down until the air inside has been drawn out which creates a nice suction or negative pressure if you will. Once the cups are secured on your body surface you can either leave them there or drag them across the surface to help pull toxins out of deeper tissue and flood the area with fresh blood to help reduce tension in muscles, hydrate dried out tissue and feed hungry muscles with nutrient rich blood. Furthermore, if you have swelling do to injuries you can use less suction and lightly draw swelling out of tissue by gently dragging the fluid away from injury and toward the midline of your body and up or down toward your heart.

So, who really should you let cup your precious little body?

It’s a practice which is relatedly fool proof and with a little practice and know how I’m sure that you can cup yourself in certain areas of your body like the IT Band of your outer leg. If you are on speaking terms with your better half, she or he could be trusted to do some light cupping on your back and other areas you cannot reach. Like I said, use the silicon cups and keep it simple at first. You can find numerous educational videos on Youtube demonstrating the basic moves of silicon cupping.

Many massage therapists use forms of cupping post deep tissue work to creative a negative pressure to counter the forces of the compressive forces applied during deep tissue work. These treatments tend to be light and the cup is pulled back and forth over the skin for 15-20 minutes. I find that cupping combined with either dry needling or acupuncture is a very effective combination to deal with anything from frozen shoulders to arthritis. Find yourself a good Chinese medicine doctor who practices both cupping and acupressure. Some combine the use of herbs to help the body heal whatever aches and pains might ail you. Nowadays, many chiropractors are expanding their practices to include soft tissue modalities and many have added cupping to their offerings.

The International Cupping Therapy Association is an organization which trains and certifies massage therapists, physical therapists and chiropractors in the art of cupping in North America which includes the country of Canada! If you go to their website they list all the therapists who have taken their 3-day courses and their licensing.  Next week we will explore the age-old practice of spooning made popular in the Canadian Navy. But I regress. Happy cupping, bros


Coach Pat Panico is a strength coach, massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. Currently, he is employed by the Washington Nationals Baseball Team. He is the founder and owner of SPORTSFITNYC in New York City where he trains high school and college athletes. He is former strength coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Division One Long Island University.

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