Clear Up Client Confusion Over Cupping


Today, more than ever, consumers want to live a healthier lifestyle. That’s good news for the massage therapy industry. In their 22nd annual survey conducted last year, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) found[1]

  • 86 percent of individuals surveyed view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness.
  • 87 percent of individuals surveyed believe that massage can effectively reduce pain, with 30 percent of respondents stating they have used massage therapy for pain relief.
  • Consumers received an average of 4.4 massages in the past 12 months.
  • 71 percent of consumers agree that massage therapy should be considered a form of health care.

These findings support massage as alternative medicine and, in turn, the important role you play as a partner in your clients’ health and wellness. The success of that partnership depends on effective communication so that clients understand why you are recommending specific massage treatments, what they involve, and what results they can expect.


Confusion over cupping?

Many clients understand that Swedish massage is the most common massage technique using light to firm pressure and long strokes to provide relaxation. They, too, may understand the concepts of deep tissue using firm pressure to release tension deep in the muscles and fascia. But when you suggest cupping as a healing technique, do clients respond with “cupping, what are you talking about?” If so, you’ll need to take some time to explain not only what cupping is but why it works, what are the benefits, and what, if any, are the risks. While you’ll want to avoid technical jargon, you want to be prepared with answers that gain client confidence and don’t create confusion about the procedure.


What is massage cupping?

Begin at the beginning when you answer this basic question. Clients should be interested and comforted to learn that cupping therapy as an alternative medicine has its roots in ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic healing.  Cupping was documented in one of the oldest medical textbooks globally, Ebers Papyrus, which was written in 1550 BC. [2] Cupping is a type of deep-tissue massage that is particularly useful for chronic pain. It helps with inflammation, blood flow, relaxation, and well-being.


How is it performed?

Explain that cupping uses cups to create counter-pressure to affect deep muscles and the connective fascia tissue. This counter-pressure is created either by heating the air inside the cup before placing it on the skin –effectively creating a vacuum when the air cools - or using a handheld suction cup that removes air from the cup to create a vacuum. Cupping is like a reverse deep tissue massage. Instead of pushing muscles down, cupping “sucks them up” and loosens them.  

There are two types of cupping. One is dry, in which the cups remain suctioned in one place on the skin. With wet cupping, the cups move and slide around. Wet cupping also involves making small cuts in the skin to draw blood. According to ancient Chinese medicine, wet cupping helps clear the bad blood and bad energy by taking out bad blood, so the body creates new, fresh blood.  Athletes may opt for wet cupping to relieve sore muscles and pain, increase range of motion, and promote faster recovery.


What are the benefits of cupping?

Cupping promotes blood flow to the compromised area, which may release muscle tension to enhance circulation and help increase the body’s own healing processes. It’s widely used for pain relief and musculoskeletal injuries, such as strains, sprains, back injuries, and inflammation.[3]


Are there side effects?

Cupping will leave red marks caused by the discoloration due to the broken blood vessels below the skin. The marks will go away but can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

If cupping is on your menu, you’ll want to take the time to talk about it to current and new clients who you believe would benefit from it.


[1] “Consumer Views & Use of Massage Therapy,” American Massage Therapy Association, accessed December 9, 2020.
[2] Rosenblum, Katie, “What Is Cupping? Does it Work,” Cedars-Sinai Blog, January 13, 2020.
[3] IBID
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