,Cupping Therapy: How to Use Cups at Home

By Cheyanne Heyn, Registered Massage Therapist

Cupping therapy is a popular treatment used in manual therapy. This technique is derived from ancient Chinese and Middle Eastern medicine practices. Recently, it has blown up in popularity due to being exposed in sports and pop culture. Famous Olympians, such as Michael Phelps, has been spotted with cupping marks. In the movie The Karate Kid, Jackie Chan performed “Fire cupping.” This modality is typically used by physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists. What most people don’t know is the simplicity of the technique makes it possible for you to apply this technique yourself at home. Keep reading to learn how and if it could help you.

Is Cupping Therapy Right for You?

Cupping is associated with an abundance of positive outcomes. Some benefits of cupping therapy include:

  • Optimizing sport performance
  • Reducing recovery time
  • Increasing blood flow
  • Softening scar tissue
  • Decreasing pain and muscle spasms

There are some conditions that cupping therapy can help to treat, too. It can help to reduce or alleviate your symptoms, which might include the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bronchial congestion caused by asthma and allergies
  • Varicose veins
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Cellulite
  • Muscle and fascial tension
  • And many more

What Type of Cups Do You Need?

There are quite a few different types or styles of cups to choose from when you’re looking for a set, but there is no wrong choice. Here are two cupping therapy options you can do at home, and then one type of cupping that we recommend you avoid without having specific training required to safely perform it.

  1. Plastic cups: These cups include a vacuum-like pump and have valves at the top to control pressure. These come in small or very large sets, and they are more ideal for full body cupping.
  2. Silicone cups: These are the best choice for any type of movement or sliding you want to do with your cups along your muscles. Stride sells cupping sets like this that you can use at home.
  3. Glass cups: These are primarily for fire cupping. (Just like Jackie Chan in Karate Kid). These type of cups should only be implemented by someone trained in fire cupping. They are not ideal otherwise.

What You Will Want to Know Before Trying Cupping Therapy at Home

  • If you have diabetes, please consult your doctor before using cups at home, as it can affect your blood sugar levels.
  • Avoid placing cups on the front of the neck. This is where your Carotid artery and your trachea are, and is unsafe for placement.
  • Never leave cups on for more than 15 mins in a single spot.
  • Do not place cups over open wounds.
  • If the sensation of cupping is still unpleasant after five minutes, remove the cups. They may be on too tight, or you may be too sensitive in that area. Listen to your body, because it knows its limit.
  • Cupping therapy often leaves circular marks behind due to the blood flow that it brings to the surface. Marks left behind should not be tender. If they are, adjust the pressure for next time.

How Do You Cup at Home?

Firstly, you were able to determine if cupping therapy is a fit for you. Secondly, you know the type of cups you want to use. So, thirdly, let’s learn how to safely use them at home. Below are three methods of cupping to know!

Method One: Stationary or Static Cupping Therapy

Used for pinpoint areas or if movement is too intense

  • Choose the area of your body that you will be working on.
  • Apply cups to the desired area, notice the time, and do not leave them on for more than 15 minutes.
  • Remove cups at the 10-15 minute mark.
  • Then, continue on other areas as-needed.

Method Two: Moving Cupping Therapy

Used for large areas or muscle tension

  • Choose an area of the body to work on
  • Apply an oil or lotion to reduce the resistance of dragging
  • Apply the cup to the desired area, set a timer so you do not cup an area longer than 15 minutes
  • Move the cup along the area in any direction (up and down, back and forth, or circles)
  • Remove cup at the 10-15 minutes mark
  • Continue on other areas if desired

Method Three: Flash Cupping Therapy

Used for your face to reduce fine lines and wrinkles

  • This type is typically performed on the face.
  • With the technique you will only be applying a cup and then popping it off right after, you do this repeatedly for only a couple of minutes because we don’t want to leave any marks or redness on the face
  • This is the most precise form of cupping listed here and is likely to have the worst outcomes if done improperly

If you have any additional questions or would like to learn more about the cups we sell at our physiotherapy clinic, feel free to reach out or book an appointment here. One more thing, you may also want to check out our self-cupping video on YouTube for a visual of how you should cup here. Happy Cupping!