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 and has blown up in popularity due to exposure in sports and pop culture. We have seen famous Olympians such as Michael Phelps with cupping marks and in The Karate Kid, we saw Jackie Chan do what’s called 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 include:

  • optimizing sport performance
  • reducing recovery time
  • increasing blood flow
  • softening scar tissue
  • decreasing pain and muscle spasms

Some conditions that cupping therapy can help to treat to reduce or alleviate your symptoms can 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 cup options you can do at home and one that we recommend you avoid unless you have the specific training.

  1. Plastic cups: come with a vacuum-like pump and have valves at the top to control pressure. These can come in small or very large sets. These are more ideal for full body cupping.
  2. Silicone cups: 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: are typically used for fire cupping. These type of cups should only be used by someone trained in fire cupping and aren’t the best for an at-home option.

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 as you have your Carotid artery and your trachea there.
  • 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, ensure you remove the cups. They may be on too tight, or you may be too sensitive in that area. Listen to your body, 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?

Now that we have decided if cupping therapy is a fit for you and which type of cups you want to use, let’s learn how to safely use them at home. Below are three methods of cupping that may be used.

Method One: Stationary or Static Cupping Therapy

Used for pinpoint areas or if movement is too intense

  • Choose an area of the body you will be working on
  • Apply cups to the desired area, making note of the time to not leave them on for more than 15 minutes
  • Remove cups at the 10-15 minute mark
  • Continue on other areas if so desired

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 used only for 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!