Cupping massage benefits include reduced pain, increased flexibility and decreased inflammation—and cupping massage can be used for a wide variety of clients.

Cupping massage benefits include reduced pain, increased flexibility and decreased inflammation—and cupping massage can be used for a wide variety of clients.

Cupping found it footing as a technique for athletes. It still holds great benefit for that clientele, while over the years uses for this tool have evolved. Technique names have developed as well. Have you considered which of your clientele could benefit from this technique?

Here, three educators—Danny Porcelli, DC, Shannon Gilmartin, CMT, and Anita Shannon, LMT—describe myofascial cupping, relaxation cupping and lymphatic cupping for athletes, clients seeking relaxation, and women diagnosed with dense breast tissue, respectively. Get a feel for how this therapy might be incorporated into your practice.

Myofascial cupping lifts the skin, fascia and muscles apart (decompressive effect) which creates more space for tissue mobility.
Myofascial cupping lifts the skin, fascia and muscles apart (decompressive effect) which creates more space for tissue mobility.

Cupping Massage Benefits Athletic Clients

By Danny Porcelli, DC

I recently taught a myofascial cupping class to a group of highly skilled therapists who were eager to learn cupping massage benefits. Why is this technique making a resurgence with massage therapists, doctors and trainers? Is it because it is effective, safe, or because the tools are inexpensive or because it’s trendy? I say all of the above.

If anyone glimpsed into my treatment room at a given time they may think I was a massage therapist, a chiropractor, a personal trainer or a physical therapist. I start my sessions with manual therapy, which usually includes cupping. My office is inside a Crossfit gym; I attract athletes and people who value movement. In my experience, cupping is a highly effective treatment for my athletic population.

Athletic clients have healthy robust skin (which is optimal for cupping) and are susceptible to repetitive use injuries that respond well to this type of treatment. Myofascial cupping lifts the skin, fascia and muscles apart (decompressive effect) which creates more space for tissue mobility. This effect also assists in breaking down small adhesions and kick-starts the healing process by drawing fluids and healing molecules into the area.

Cupping can be used for passive recovery as well as active treatments. I use passive cupping to enhance the effects of different types of stretching. Cups are applied to the target tissues (space acquisition) and improve interlayer gliding—a much-needed effect to enhance tissue mobility and range of motion. They can also be applied statically for a period of time to relax the area. Cupping with movement can reduce pain or assist in retraining a movement pattern. With cups on, adding movement patterns that were painful or dysfunctional can reduce threat, decrease pain and improve body awareness.

A final reason I prefer cupping athletes to other treatments is their belief systems play a critical role in how they perform. They pay attention to trends, new treatments and cutting edge therapies. When they see Michael Phelps, Kelly Slater or another athlete in their sport receiving cupping therapy, they seek it out for themselves. If the client believes it will help then we will be more successful with the intervention. The perception of the client matters and will always have an effect on the outcome.

Danny Porcelli
Danny Porcelli

Cupping is generally regarded as safe, effective and inexpensive. It is one of the oldest treatments we know of and as research continues to build, we will see the use of myofascial cupping continue to grow.

Danny Porcelli, DC, wrote this article on behalf of ROCKTAPE. He is the primary chiropractic physician and owner of XOC Chiropractic in Naples, Florida. He combines joint mobilization, soft-tissue treatment and corrective exercises to obtain fast, effective and lasting results. He also teaches continuing education courses for sports medicine professionals.

cupping massage
Therapeutic cupping employs negative pressure to approach the body for treatment, which is something unique only to cups.

Cupping Massage Benefits Relaxation Clients

By Shannon Gilmartin, CMT

Cupping massage for stress relief is a wonderfully unique adaptation of cupping—and different from the more common or traditional cupping therapies. While most people are familiar with stronger, often less-than-relaxing cupping applications that commonly leave cupping marks, cups can also be employed in a variety of ways to address a multitude of ailments, including stress and anxiety. Just like the hands of a skilled massage therapist can induce relaxation, cups can be used to facilitate stress relief, oftentimes not leaving any cupping marks to achieve benefit.

Therapeutic cupping employs negative pressure to approach the body for treatment, which is something unique only to cups. Considering most manual therapies employ positive pressure, this concept of administering bodywork that creates space can be quite the welcome sensation.

Rather than using strong pressure and vigorous movements, non-aggressive cupping techniques can offer universally calming results to the entire central nervous system due to its relaxing effect on all sensory receptors. Similar to how the relaxing, light pressure strokes done by hand – often called nerve strokes—can calm someone, using cups with various soothing applications can evoke a tranquil response in the central nervous system. Once cupping begins to take effect, the peripheral repercussions can have a profound effect on the entire central nervous system, thereby inducing deep relaxation.

One of the most common areas to work with cups for stress relief is over the back along the paraspinals, and across the shoulders. The naturally decompressive sensation of cups can be disorienting to tight areas stuck in a state of contraction; this altered sense of manipulation can ultimately promote some much-needed muscle relaxation (without added, positive pressure). Applying non-aggressive cup placements that progressively soften and hydrate tissues, moving cups slowly with lighter pressure along these common lines of tension, even lightly sliding over the rib cage to create expansion and induce a deeper sense of breath, all collectively can be a great stress-relieving treatment.

Shannon Gilmartin
Shannon Gilmartin

Whether cups are used to address areas of muscle tension, as a more holistic application for the whole body, or gently across the face with specific micro-cupping techniques, the feedback is consistently one of positive, therapeutic relief. Some people have given the feedback that they have more breathing room in their bodies. One of my favorite client testimonials about face cupping leaves a relaxing, lasting impression: “It feels like you just drained the stress out of my face, thank you.”

Shannon Gilmartin, CMT, started her massage therapy career in 2000, and began cupping practices in 2004, teaching cupping internationally soon thereafter. She has published numerous articles, been interviewed, authored “The Guide to Modern Cupping Therapy: A Step-by-Step Source for Vacuum Therapies,” and co-owns Modern Cupping Therapy Education Company.

Scar tissue, including radiated tissue, responds quickly to cupping, softening and becoming more pliable, enabling women to do basic daily movements and tasks.

Cupping Massage Benefits Clients with Dense Breast Tissue

By Anita Shannon, LMT

According to the National Institute of Health,  nearly half of all women over 40 in the U.S. are found to have dense breast tissue. Dense breasts have a high amount of fibrous and glandular tissues and low amounts of fatty tissue. reported 281,550 new cases of breast cancer were expected to be diagnosed in 2021 in the U.S. Women’s breast health and surgical recovery has become all important and massage therapists, physical therapists and other health care professionals can help.

Using vacuum therapies for lymphatic liquefaction and drainage of the breasts has resulted in diagnosis changes for some women who were originally told they have dense breast tissue. Could it be that many of these women had such congested lymph that it appeared in the mammogram or other testing as dense fibrous and glandular tissue? And these breasts become very heavy, putting strain on the entire body.

Normal lymphatic drainage of the breast is often impeded by tight-fitting bras and other garments that compress tissue. Many women truly need the support and using a silicone vacuum cup in the shower just a few times a week can offset the consequences of wearing a support or athletic bra. A short series of treatments by a trained professional to clear and support normal drainage is often necessary prior to this type of home maintenance, and the professional can also instruct their client or patient in the proper techniques used with the cup.

Dense breast tissue is considered a marker for high risk of breast cancer. No wonder, since the congestion contains years of cellular debris and the tissue has not received adequate nutrition. This creates the perfect acidic and hypoxic (low oxygen levels) environment for cancer to proliferate. Healthy breast tissue that is alkaline and hyperoxic does not provide cancer with much opportunity to thrive.

So many women are diagnosed with a genetic form of breast cancer and receive treatment or surgery, and some women with a genetic predisposition are opting for surgery as a prophylactic measure. Vacuum therapies can significantly change the issues that often arise from these surgeries and has also been used to create space for implants in reconstructive surgery.

Scar tissue, including radiated tissue, responds quickly to soften and become more pliable, enabling women to do basic daily movements and tasks that we all take for granted. Pain levels decrease and a simple hug becomes a joy again. Breathing becomes easier and energy levels can normalize. Contractures are also a serious side effect of reconstructive and elective breast surgeries and these can quickly be released without discomfort.

These gentle techniques are often done with extra-large rigid or soft cups to encompass the entire breast area, and smaller cups to address scars and restrictions. Training is essential, and the techniques can easily be added into another service or become a single half-hour specialized treatment.

Anita Shannon
Anita Shannon

Anita Shannon, LMT, is licensed in massage therapy and cosmetology since 1983, and an educator since 1990. She presents workshops on ACE Massage Cupping and MediCupping since developing these methods in 2002. She is also a MASSAGE Magazine All-Star, one of a group of innovative therapists and teachers who are educating the magazine’s community of massage therapists in our print magazine, on our social media channels and on