What is Myofascial Cupping and Why does it bruise?

What is cupping?

Cupping is an ancient technique originating from Chinese cultures, roughly 3000 yrs ago. The technique of cupping can be traced back through history in numerous cultures. Cupping is a therapeutic technique where a jar is attached to the surface of the skin. A vacuum like seal is created inside the jar either via a suction pump or through heat. Heated or pump up cups are placed on the skin to create a vacuum like seal creating local congestion under the cup. Cupping techniques can be used both fixed in one position or used mobile (dragging along the skin and tissues). Both techniques apply the same mechanisms to the body and help to improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage that assists healing and help to release off muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, cartilage and other structures causing discomfort or pain

Why does it bruise?

Cupping, whether mobile or fixed, creates a vacuum-like seal between the cup and the skin. This vacuum-like seal creates congestion under the skin by bringing blood to the surface and increasing blood flow in the area the cup is applied to. Cupping can often leave the skin with red or purple circles. The circles are in fact not bruises but temporary skin colour changes due to the suction like the natural of cupping. These colour changes can last anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks but will disappear over time.

What is cupping used for?

Cupping is generally very safe to use and has no side effects other than the ‘bruising’.
Cupping is used for a variety of different conditions, both musculoskeletal and non-musculoskeletal. Osteopaths may use cupping to assist in the treatment and management of:

  • Musculoskeletal pain from injuries
  • Musculoskeletal discomfort from stiffness and tightness
  • Fascial tightness
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Sporting injuries like sprains

After cupping, you may feel tired and drowsy or you may feel great, it all depends on how your body responds to the technique. Post muscle soreness can last up to 2 days, this is normal.

All of our osteopaths who utilise myofascial cupping in their treatment and management plans are certified and trained in myofascial cupping and dry needling. If you have any questions or concerns do not hesitate to ask one of our certified friendly osteopaths.


Aboushanab, T. S., & AlSanad, S. (2018). Cupping therapy: an overview from a modern medicine perspective. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 11(3), 83-87.

Charles, D., Hudgins, T., MacNaughton, J., Newman, E., Tan, J., & Wigger, M. (2019). A systematic review of manual therapy techniques, dry cupping and dry needling in the reduction of myofascial pain and myofascial trigger points. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 23(3), 539-546.

Chi, L. M., Lin, L. M., Chen, C. L., Wang, S. F., Lai, H. L., & Peng, T. C. (2016). The effectiveness of cupping therapy on relieving chronic neck and shoulder pain: a randomized controlled trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016.

Hedwig, M. (2009). The art of Cupping. Thieme, New York.

Lowe, D. T. (2017). Cupping therapy: An analysis of the effects of suction on skin and the possible influence on human health. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 29, 162-168.

Moura, C. D. C., Chaves, É. D. C. L., Cardoso, A. C. L. R., Nogueira, D. A., Corrêa, H. P., & Chianca, T. C. M. (2018). Cupping therapy and chronic back pain: systematic review and meta-analysis. Revista latino-americana de enfermagem, 26.

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