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What Is Cupping Therapy?

What Is Cupping Therapy?  Part One: Soma Cupping

Most of you have probably seen the recent coverage of Olympic athletes with the red spots on their backs and shoulders, revealed to be the results of the application of a therapy called “cupping.” While it is a relatively new treatment for modern athletes, the practice of cupping has been around the block for a long time.  Developed over 3000 years ago and documented in various ancient cultures such as China, Egypt, and Greece, cupping therapy was used to treat disease, resolve structural issues, and improve the flow of chi.  The technique uses cups and suction to create a vacuum next to the skin and thus stimulate blood, lymph, waste products, and other body fluid to flow through and out of the area.

Before modern technology, cupping was typically practiced by heating the air inside glass, bamboo, or clay cups and turning them upside down on the skin to produce the desired vacuum effect. Today, we can minimize the risk of burning and enhance our control of the cups by using several very cool inventions.  We use two of these applications at Vital Touch Wellness:  hard, plastic cups that work with a vacuum pump; and soft silicone cups.  Each elicits a similar and yet somewhat different response in the body.  We’ll focus on the soft silicone cupping in Part One of this series.

Soma Cupping Therapy

Soma-Cupping-TherapyLicensed massage therapist Gregory Gorey developed specific techniques for using the silicone cups that he named Soma Cupping. The way these soft, clear cups works is quite simple:  a trained massage therapist squeezes the cup, gently presses it onto the skin, and as she lets go, flesh gets drawn up into the cup as it “sticks” to the body.  It’s easy for the therapist to adjust the suction to get just the right amount.  Then the therapist may leave the cup in place for a few seconds to a few minutes, or she may apply massage lotion so that she can slide the cup around, stroking, angling, or even twisting the cup for best results.  Soma Cupping is quite gentle and rarely leaves marks on the skin.

 What does Soma Cupping do for the body?

The effects of these little cups is amazing. The negative pressure they produce gives them a unique advantage to traditional hands-on massage. Instead of pressing and rubbing, Soma Cupping lifts and separates tissues off of each other, creating space and bathing the tissues in fluid.  This has a similar effect to soaking a dry, brittle sponge in water – our rehydrated fascia (the tissue that wraps our muscles and organs and is full of sensory nerve endings) becomes pliable and supple, increasing our range of motion, improving lymphatic and blood circulation, and reducing pain and stiffness.  The added beauty of Soma Cupping is that it can produce the effects of deep tissue massage and myofascial release with less pain for the client. *
We can use cupping in massage for various other benefits:

  • Relieve trigger points
  • Loosen scar tissue
  • Improve lymphatic movement
  • Soften tight fascia and muscles
  • Stimulate weak tissue

What issues can Soma Cupping help?

So what does all this talk of fascia softening and lymphatic function mean for you?  Could you benefit from your therapist adding cupping to your massage? Here are issues that Soma Cupping can improve:


  • Pain and swelling from recent injuries
  • Pain and stiffness from old injuries
  • Headaches
  • Colds / Immune function
  • Functioning in areas with scar tissue
  • Healing post surgery or trauma **

Interested in trying cupping at Vital Touch Wellness? 

Our therapists can blend it into your regular tailored massage therapy appointment, and it costs the same. Currently, two of our licensed massage therapists utilize cupping – JoAnn Long and Jen McLamb.  Cupping is contraindicated for some conditions. Just tell us you’re interested when you book your appointment and your therapist can discuss your individual needs.

Call us today to schedule a session at 484.341.8411.

Or book an appointment online at this link.

* “Soma Cupping,” Gregory Gorey. Massage & Bodywork July/August 2016.

** “Cupping Therapy; An Ancient Technique for a Modern World,” Samuel Wong. Massage & Body Work July/August 2016.


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