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Is Cupping The New K-Tape?

Cupping therapy is SO HOT right now thanks to Michael Phelps proudly wearing his  bruises like battle wounds. Everyone is asking where did those purple hickies come from? Are they the secret to his incredible speed as he powers through the water? Maybe!?! Is cupping the new K-tape? Definitely not! K-Tape is way less painful.

Those wine colored circles dotting his right shoulder are from cupping, a technique that has been around for hundreds of years from ancient Chinese Medicine. A cup is heated and placed on the skin creating a negative vacuum suction to pull blood to the surface of the skin. A tight or injured spot will let itself be known by an immediate bright purple reaction also known as petechiae. In Chinese Medicine, pain ensues when there is a stagnation of heat in the body, and cupping clears this by moving “qi” around the body. Athletes are cupping to enhance performance, with the benefits of reduced stiffness, reduced muscle cramps, heals scar tissue, and helps them heal quicker.

Cupping therapy increases the blood flow to the injured area along with oxygen setting off an inflammatory immune response. The immune system releases proteins called cytokines to go clean up that inflammation. Bruises can last up to 2 weeks so make sure there are no black tie events unless you want to bare your wellness routine like other celebrities hip to this trend including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, and Justin Bieber.

Why you should have cupping done by a professional?

Always get assessed by a medical professional before cupping. That nagging area of pain may be an infection, cancerous lesion, blood clot or a million other rare things that can cause pain. Stay on the safe side and get diagnosed to rule out all the scary red flags, then go to town getting cupped to speed up the healing of a musculoskeletal injury.

What are the side effects of cupping therapy ?

Cupping massage is no walk in the park, you’ll break a sweat and might even beg to stop. The practitioner places the cups for 5-15 minutes for the best results and drags them across the skin for more intensity to pull and drain inflammation towards to heart. The main side effect is residual pain, bruising, and rarely but potentially infection.

Does cupping really work?

The jury is out on whether cupping works and the majority of the studies done are not the best quality, ie not double blind randomized control studies. My take: every inch and minute counts so if an elite athlete feels relief and better movement even if just by 1%, I’ll take it.

When is cupping the most effective?

Cupping therapy in NYC is a powerful tool in combination with physical therapy and strength training to turn on and fire any muscles that are weak. Cupping can also be an alternative to Active Release Technique and Graston which we also offer at Urban Wellness Clinic.

If you find yourself wanting to try new trend and take the dive into cupping therapy or have any questions, please contact us to get evaluated at or call 212-355-0445.

In good health.

Dr Emily Kiberd