Skip to navigation menu Skip to content


Cupping cups on back of young boy

Cupping: Complementary Therapy May Promote Healing

By Shannon Brown, LPTA, MCTP

Many of us have seen the iconic photos of circular cupping marks on Olympic athletes. Cupping is a type of alternative therapy in which special cups are placed on the skin for a few minutes to create suction. Cupping therapy can be used to help ease muscle tension, decrease swelling, and increase circulation to an area.

Cupping uses negative pressure to help lift and separate tissues. This is the opposite of traditional massage, which uses positive pressure and may feel uncomfortable when treating tight muscles. The negative pressure of cupping can help increase the diameter of blood vessels, allowing for more fluid to be exchanged in an area. It can also help the body remove biological waste to allow more nutrients to enter an area and promote healing.

Cupping helps treat injuries.

Cupping also may be used to help decrease prolonged swelling after an injury. Cupping can help benefit students who have tight neck muscles from carrying heavy backpacks or from sitting for extended periods of time. There are even techniques to help athletes with their warm-up process before sporting events and to cool down muscles after the event.

Cupping can also help treat injuries such as tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or carpal tunnel syndrome by releasing surrounding muscle tension. The same theory applies to runner’s and jumper’s knee by applying cups to the iliotibial band, quadriceps, and hamstrings.

Cupping marks may occur spontaneously at any point during a session. However, this is not the goal of treatment. You do not need to see these marks to have a positive effect on the tissue that is being treated.

Seek expert advice on cupping.

There are many safety issues to consider when performing a cupping treatment. It’s very important to understand that cupping should never hurt. Only seek treatment from a healthcare professional that has been trained in cupping therapy.

If you are interested in this complementary therapy, you may speak to a CHKD sports medicine physician, physical therapist, or athletic trainer at 668-PLAY (7529). They can help you find the nearest clinician that is trained in cupping.

Like this post?

Sign up to receive our once monthly email with up-to-date sports performance and sports medicine information from CHKD's sports medicine experts.

About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.