What is Myofascial Cupping?

myofascial cupping daventry

Do you remember seeing photos of Michael Phelps covered in circular purple dots during the Rio Olympics?  These were the marks left by cupping.

What is the difference between traditional and myofascial cupping?

Traditional cupping is an ancient Eastern practice used in conjunction with the body’s meridians and performed using glass cups and a naked flame to produce suction on the skin.  Myofascial cupping is slightly different as instead of working with the meridian system, it targets the musculo-skeletal system and practitioners use plastic cups and a hand operated pump to create a vacuum suction.

myofascial cupping Daventry
Myofascial cups are made from plastic and are applied using a vacuum pump.

How are cups applied?

Firstly, lotion or cream is applied to the skin as per a normal sports massage.  The therapist uses their knowledge of the muscles to ascertain where there are areas that would benefit from cupping, for example areas where muscles are tight or there are adhesions.  Dependent upon the size of the body part being treated, one, two or more cups are then applied to the body using the vacuum pump.  The cups can be left in one place for up to 10 minutes or can be moved around by the therapist in order to target and massage a wider area.

Once the treatment is completed, the cups are removed and cleaned.

sports massage daventry
Cup applied to quad muscle.

Does it hurt?

This is the question I get asked most frequently! Cupping isn’t painful but you will probably feel a ‘pinching’ sensation or tightness in the area being treated.  You may be asked to perform some movements whist the cups are attached to help mobilise the fascia and muscle tissue and this can increase the pitching/tightness.

Will it leave marks?

Dependent upon the area being treated, you will be left with some degree of marking.  In my experience, the back tends to mark more than say the quads on the legs but yes, you will have some marking after the treatment.  These vary on different people and the area being treated, but should disappear in a few days.

myofascial cupping Daventry
After cups have been removed from mid back and upper trap.  Client has also had deep tissue massage to right hand side shoulder blade.


myofascial cupping Daventry
Static cupping with cupping massage. Lower left hand side shows area where cupping has been used to massage


myofascial cupping daventry
Erector spinae cupping, both static and cupping massage.

What are the benefits of myofascial cupping?

  • increased blood flow to the treated area
  • increased fluid movement in the area
  • passive stretching of the myofascial tissue, which helps increase range of motion (ROM) in the area
  • de-activation of myofascial trigger points
  • relaxation of the treated area
sports massage Daventry
Cupping on the spine combined with soft tissue release (STR). 

Is cupping for me?

Whilst aesthetically, myofasical cupping isn’t for everyone, it is generally safe for use on most people. However, there are certain circumstances where it would not be suitable, which include:

  • people with a history of vascular disease, DVT, varicose veins etc.
  • open wounds, fragile and sensitive skin
  • people taking blood thinning medication
  • pregnant women
  • after a recent operation
  • young children

This is not an exhaustive list, so it is best to chat with your therapist beforehand to ensure that it would be a suitable treatment.  I’d also say that if you don’t like the idea of having marks on your skin it might not be the right choice of treatment for you.  If you’re due to go to a function where you’ll be wearing something strapless/backless, you may also want to consider the timing of your cupping appointment!


sports massage daventry
Cupping on the quad muscles
cupping Daventry
Immediately post-cupping. Marking tends to be less pronounced on quad muscles.


If you’d like to find out more about cupping and discuss whether it would be a beneficial treatment for you, get in touch with me for a chat.  I provide cupping as part of a sports massage therapy treatment.  This will include the usual consultation and detailed postural assessment, alongside deep tissue massage techniques.  Treatments are available at the Daventry location and are by appointment only.

To book your appointment, either call me on 07494 100165 or email me on info@bodyeq.co.uk.