Everything You Should Know About Cupping Therapy

If you follow me on Instagram, you would’ve seen the photo I posted a few days ago of my polka dot covered back; the aftermath of a cupping therapy session! Since I work at an acupuncture clinic, I’ve gotten acupuncture done many times, however never paired it with cupping. That being said, I honestly had no idea what to expect for my first time! What I did know going into it was: 1) that a lot of athletes do it for muscle recovery and stiffness, and 2) that it leaves big, dark, circular marks on the areas where the cups were placed. After a week of intense working out and walking all over campus, I found that my lower back and neck felt stiff, so I decided I’d finally give cupping a go at my next acupuncture treatment. I’m sure there are people reading this who have no idea what cupping even is. So, before I dive into my personal experience with cupping therapy, let me enlighten you!


Cupping is a form of Chinese medicine that is used to alleviate pain, remove toxins from the muscles and tissues, break up congested and stagnant blood, loosen your muscles, and encourage new blood flow to the congested areas. The cups work to bring the congested/stagnant blood to the surface of the skin to make room for new, healthy blood.


Cupping is usually combined with acupuncture, however it can be done alone. The practitioner will either use small glass cups or bamboo jars that act as suctions on the skin. Placement of the cups follow similar techniques of acupuncture and are placed on points or meridians depending on where your pain or congestion is. The cups are left on a certain area of the skin for a few minutes before the practitioner releases them.


It doesn’t hurt. If anything, it feels like someone is giving you a really intense back and shoulder massage. When the cups are on your skin, the suction creates this feeling of tightness. However, when they are taken off, you get this amazing sense of release. I think it’s similar to how you feel when you have a stuffy nose and then go into a sauna. You feel a sense of relief afterward and less congested.


This is the most interesting part of the whole experience for me. After getting treated, I didn’t look at my back until a good 5-6 hours later when I was getting into my pjs at night. The circles on my shoulders and low back were REALLY dark purple, whereas some of the other marks weren’t as dark in color. Let me clarify that these “marks” aren’t bruises. Bruises are caused by impact trauma that breaks capillaries and sends fluid rushing to the injured tissues. Cupping marks, on the other hand, are internal and unwanted toxins that are brought to the surface of the skin. I was curious as to what the darkness or lightness of the marks meant, and my practitioner told me that the darker the circles, the more congested the tissues are. They’ll get lighter and lighter each time we do cupping therapy. This was so cool to me because it showed that the areas where I was feeling pain or stiffness were actually congested and stagnant. The lighter the marks, the healthier your tissues and muscles are! Here’s a really awesome image that I found that helps make sense of each mark:



Anyone who’s in physical or mental pain! Here are some (there are definitely more) of the reasons people get cupping therapy:

  • Physical pain (back, neck, shoulder, knee, etc.)

  • Poor blood circulation

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Muscle spasms

  • Respiratory infections (as well as chronic cough and lung disease)

  • IBS

  • Insomnia

  • Cellulite

  • Menstruation issues

  • Headaches and migraines

  • Depression and anxiety


I’m going to be honest, the night I got cupping, I had trouble falling asleep. My upper back and shoulders were really sore, so I couldn’t get comfortable in bed. When I woke up I felt a lot looser, but I was still extremely sore! I felt like I had done the most intense upper body workout ever the day before, when I hadn’t. Honestly because I was so sore, I decided to skip out on my workout and just walk a lot between classes/coffee shops. I didn’t have any issues falling asleep this night and woke up the second day feeling a little less sore. As far as the marks, mine were pretty dark the first day, however the second day I noticed them starting to lighten up. I was able to workout the second day and by evening/nighttime, my upper body didn’t feel sore at all! This morning, day 3, the circle marks are still pretty dark, however I feel like I can move and stretch my neck way more than I previously could. I feel like there’s so much less tension in my entire back, shoulders, and neck and it feels amazing!!!


Most acupuncture clinics will also have cupping services. If you live in the Boulder area, come into the Acupuncture Clinic of Boulder, cupping is only $45 (and I work there so you can say hi)!! If you’re in the Denver area, Nan’s Acupuncture does cupping as well as acupuncture services. It’s not that hard to find a place that does cupping in your area as Chinese medicine is becoming more popular; just make sure you’re doing your research to find practitioners that are skilled in cupping therapy and aren’t charging too much for the service.

If you have any other questions about cupping therapy leave a comment below or message me on social media!