A massage cup pulls skin up into itself, showing the divots that indicate severe restrictions and adhesions.

Examples of the divots that indicate severe restrictions and adhesions, which can appear during cupping sessions. Photo courtesy of Mike Krizek.

An unrecognized pathological condition is affecting a large segment of the population and could, in my opinion, be a key component of disease and degeneration, allergies and addictions, as well as obesity and toxicity.

I call this condition solid bloat.

It often manifests as weight gain or cellulite, and can eventually lead to serious health issues.

Working with vacuum therapies not only effectively assists in eliminating years’ accumulation of solid bloat, it also provides information about the cause and nature of the condition.

A “Walking History”

How many times have we looked in the mirror over the years, only to see one of our parents appearing right before our eyes? What is this gradual weight gain we casually identify as a sign of aging?

One answer is the walking history our body has become: layers of chemical and physical impacts the body has processed and often stored due to an overload of the systems.

Tissues and structures of the body become congested and further compromised, and an unhealthy environment is created. Let’s take a look at the formation of solid bloat in the body, and some of its causes.

The physical formation of the deposits is simple; heat from inflamed tissue slowly dehydrates the surrounding lymph, which inhibits further drainage.

Fascia fuses together from the heat, and the congestion spreads through the upper tissues and skin surface.

This inflammation can come from a myriad of sources, such as surgeries, injuries, chronic movement patterns—even childhood diseases and exposure to toxicities that result in unidentified allergies.

Closeup of an ankle following surgery, with a line closed with medical staples.
Closeup of an ankle that previously had a scar stapled; now the foot shows little scarring after cupping treatments.

Immediately following foot surgery (above) and after cupping treatments (below). Note how well the scar healed after 10 cupping treatments.  Photos courtesy of Mike Krizek.

Old Causes

The surprise for so many people is they have chronic conditions that may have been caused by something so long ago in their life.

The epidural insertion point can often still be seen on women who gave birth more than 25 years ago, for example, and can frequently be a source of restriction that has spread throughout the back.

Consider this: What impact could we have on those who are recovering from addictions? If the solid bloat on these people contains a large residue of their addictive substance, it would be extremely beneficial to drain out the congestion and remove the triggers for cell receptors.

Here’s another example: Many of us grew up in the 40s through the 70s and had to endure our parents smoking in the house and car. For us, chronic heat in the lungs—from childhood—inflames and dehydrates the surrounding tissue and body fluids.

As the massage cups move over the back, a grey color can be seen under the skin, and if a cup is parked for even a short time, the discoloration may stay visible after the treatment.

A closeup of skin showing strained blood vessels
A closeup of skin showing strained blood vessels' condition improved after cupping.

Note how the vessels that were strained with congestion (above) have now smoothed and begun to drop below the surface (below) after MediCupping sessions. Photos courtesy of Sandra Panek.

The Body, Magnified

It is imperative to use clear cups for treatments so the cup can become a magnifying glass into the body. Large white deposits against pink skin indicate congestion, and divots—dents that appear in the tissue when it is pulled up into the cup—will quickly show adhesions, restrictions and the true nature of scars.

It is important to observe the colors of the tissue in the cup, and test the skin for heat levels after the cup is removed to assess inflammation levels underneath.

Some clients can experience a light burning sensation or itching as old toxins in the tissues are stimulated, and heavy discolorations can appear on the skin from old surgeries and injuries.

Any old residue in the congested lymph can trigger the immune system, and it is important to dredge and drain the tissues slowly in those who already live with auto-immune disorders and degenerative diseases.

But what an amazing benefit for those conditions, to drain out the thick congestion that can be filled with a large volume of immune-system irritants.

A therapist pushes two fists into a client's cellulite.

The appearance of cellulite, with its severe congestion and dehydration of the tissues, responds well to MediCupping. Photo courtesy of Mike Krizek.

Inflammation’s Effects

By examining the natural body reaction to injury or illness, we find the cycle is consistent. Injury or illness occurs and the body creates inflammation, which brings increased blood flow to the area. This also draws fluids and immune-system elements into the region to deal with the condition.

The pH shifts to acid and the tissue takes on a positive charge polarity. Adequate recovery will allow the body to shift back to a negative charge in the tissue and an alkaline pH when healing is complete. This action is similar and linked to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous subsystems of the autonomic nervous system.

The problem is few people actually give the body any recovery time. Therefore, the affected area or system stays in the acid pH with a positive charge and never shifts back to healthy tissue. This can continue for a lifetime in the body.

Inflammation continues and dehydrates the tissue and lymph. The toxins and debris from the immune-system response become trapped in the congestion and the issue becomes chronic. The acid pH of the tissue blocks oxygenation and nutrients, and dehydrated tissue cannot even absorb hydration that is available.

The tissue or system now becomes vulnerable to all kinds of new pathologies, and the entire immune system is overly stimulated and strained.

A cup pulls skin into itself, showing examples of the divots that indicate severe restrictions and adhesions and which can appear during MediCupping sessions. Photo courtesy of Mike Krizek.

Examples of the divots that indicate severe restrictions and adhesions and which can appear during MediCupping sessions. Photo courtesy of Mike Krizek.

Creating Space

So how does vacuum therapy work to eliminate solid bloat and open drainage in the body? The biggest impact is on the lymphatic system; the vacuum will open and create space, release old scars and adhesions in fascia to create unimpeded drainage, as well as aid in decongestion of the lymph terminations in tissues.

As the cup glides over the skin and underlying tissue, the vacuum should open the flaps of the lymph microvessel in a wave-like motion. This can help to dislodge trapped protein molecules that may have been blocking an open flap, and gently triggers the entire lymphatic system.

Static placement of cups is not as beneficial in this type of bodywork, since leaving constant suction on one spot will draw congestion into an area. (A great example of this is how effective static placement of a cup is for pulling a cyst into an easily removable form by surgical procedure.)

Vacuum therapies use vascular dilation to bring heat to the area and liquefy the old lymph for easy movement, and use the same vascular dilation to eliminate the latent inflammation from the tissue and stop the cycle.

These techniques also assist by changing the pH and polarity of the tissue to create a healthy environment and allow healing. This can affect old injuries and finally free the tissue or joint to function at optimal levels.  

(Editor’s note: read: “Cupping Therapy: An Overview from a Modern Medicine Perspective,” published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies in 2018.)

Emotional-Somatic Components

Let’s now take into consideration the emotional-somatic components of solid bloat and their importance in working with vacuum therapies.

According to William H. Philpott, MD, and Dwight K. Kalita, PhD, authors of Magnet Therapy: An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide and Brain Allergies: The Psychonutrient and Magnetic Connections,many autoimmune disorders might be linked to a post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) combined with exposure to a toxic element.

As the other elements of medications, immune system debris and tissue wastes are dredged and drained, there may also be the presence of neurochemicals in the congestion. This can trigger intense dreams or an emotional response to treatment, yet can be a wonderful elimination of a nervous-system trigger and may truly help the client recognize a deep part of her condition.

One important piece of information working with the cups has shown us is the presence of phantom breast syndrome.

Imagine the emotional debris left in the tissue along with the injury from a mastectomy, especially a radical procedure.

When a large breast cup is placed over the area and the tissue is gently pumped to facilitate release of restrictive scar tissues and drainage of the congested lymph, the reaction has been nothing short of spectacular.

Reactions have ranged from tears to a radiant smile as the phantom breast—the energy field of the breast—feels again.

Creating space in the existing tissue and surgical scarring for the remaining lymphatic system to re-establish itself, releasing old inflammation from the medical procedure and changing the pH and polarity of the tissue so it can heal is of crucial value in these cases, yet the emotional and energetic healing is also of utmost importance.

Bodily Insight

Consider the person who cannot lose weight, whether slightly overweight to clinically obese and undergoing surgical procedures. What a gift to his self-esteem to finally find out some of the problem has been solid bloat.

Massage cupping is also a great treatment for a client to have old C-section scars comfortably released, with the restored lymph flow to the upper inguinal nodes significantly diminishing the large belly she carried around for years.

The best possible adjunct therapy for bariatric surgeries is a series of MediCupping™ sessions to open the lymphatic system, dredge and drain old congestion and move it out to be eliminated. When working on a client who is losing a large amount of weight, it is rewarding to reduce or soften a large saddlebag from one leg and have her stand up to compare the difference.

These kinds of results, and educating the client on how he may have come to be in the shape he is in, seem to offer a sense of relief to many. It appears to lift some blame clients have placed on themselves as to why they have cellulite when they have a healthy lifestyle, or why they have gained weight over the years.

Viewing their body and tissues through the cup offers insight into the history of their body experiences and how these have affected their current health.

Dramatic Results

Having a tool that assists in evaluation and also provides the most comfortable and effective methods of affecting client health at such a profound level is of major benefit to today’s therapists.

The results are often dramatic and visible, since vacuum therapies work nicely with the homeostatic mechanisms of the body. The addition of such adjunct therapies as aromatherapy, taping and magnetic micro-cups can become a complete toolbox for working with an extremely wide variety of client conditions.

While the manual cupping equipment is tried and true, new machines now offer an even wider range of techniques and a professional appearance when working with the medical community. Equipment is important, yet thorough training is most vital. Try starting with a DVD and practice before attending a workshop, or attend the workshop and practice before working on clients.

 A great practice body is your own. Work on your face or body twice each week for one month and take pictures of what happens. Not only will your sinuses feel clearer, your eyesight and digestive function might benefit—and your true face and body can come back out from under any solid bloat. Now, take a look in the mirror to see who is there.

Author Anita Shannon's face, smiling.

About the Author: Anita Shannon, LMT, has been licensed in massage therapy and cosmetology since 1983. An educator since 1990, she appears at national chiropractic, massage, and spa conventions and currently presents workshops on ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping at international locations since developing these brands of bodywork in 2002. She is also a MASSAGE Magazine All Star. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include  “Conquer Clients’ Confusion About Massage Cupping.”