By Dr. Beau Horner

Since Michael Phelps was seen with purplish, red circles on his back during the 2012 summer Olympics, cupping therapy has gained global attention and raised a lot of questions: What is it? Does it hurt? What does it treat? I am not an elite athlete, but can it help me?

Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by pulling blood closer to the surface. As blood flow increases to the area, the muscle fascia and connective tissue loosen. Cupping therapy has been used for back and neck pain, migraines, muscle recovery and tissue relaxation.

There are two forms of cupping; wet and dry. In dry cupping, the therapist will simply place the suction cups on the skin. In wet cupping, the practitioner will make a small incision on the skin and then apply the suction cup to draw out small amounts of blood. In our office, we only perform dry cupping.

Cupping treatment is very similar to how a deep tissue massage reduces pain. However, cupping is the opposite of massage– rather than applying pressure into the muscles, it uses negative pressure to pull them upward. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be drawn into the cup. Once suction has occurred, the cups can be moved across the skin in a gliding motion using massage oil or lotion. Most patients find this pressure to be particularly relaxing and relieving. The cups are generally left in place for about 10-15 minutes while the patient relaxes.

Cupping therapy might cause bruising and soreness, which is temporary. The bruising side effects depend on the severity of blood stagnation in the area the cups are placed. The bruising or redness is just from the dilating of the red blood cells – there is no cell damage occurring. During the treatment, some discomfort from the suction is normal. However the elimination of the toxins in the tissue does give the patient some immediate relief.

To inquire more regarding cupping treatment or other treatment options at our clinic, please call our office at 480-470-0133.

Dr. Beau Horner is a licensed Chiropractor. He provides patient-specific treatment plans that incorporate the use of chiropractic, physical therapy techniques, soft-tissue therapies, nutritional and ergonomic counseling, and home exercises to provide the most time-efficient and effective plan to treat patients with a variety of conditions. Our office accepts insurance, personal injury and accident cases. For more information visit