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What is Cupping Therapy?

I was invited by the United States Olympic Committee to join Team USA’s sports medicine team for the XXXI Olympiad Games in Rio De Janeiro. During my time in Brazil cupping became the “hot topic”.

While the research on cupping is limited, I have found great clinical results with Olympic athletes and our patients here at EXOS Athletes’ Performance in Frisco, Texas.

Cupping therapy has been around for thousands of years and is considered an ancient technique.1 The way in which cupping is performed has been advancing overtime, and over the last few decades the quality and quantity of research has been increasing.2

The most recent research states cupping can be a safe and effective treatment for musculoskeletal pain.2-5 Cupping may be used to reduce pain for all musculoskeletal pain conditions as a short-term, complimentary treatment.2,3

Cupping is considered a non-invasive, low-risk procedure if performed by a medical professional.1 When a cup is applied to the skin, it creates a vacuum via suction by a mechanical tool or heat, pulling the soft tissue up into it. Cupping is meant to increase blood flow to the treatment area and rid the soft tissue of trapped toxins.1

Although there are a few different ways to perform cupping, here at EXOS Athletes’ Performance cupping is used as a heat modality to increase blood flow and promote the body’s natural healing process. In regards to pediatrics – the athletes must understand the treatment and understand the side effects including the residual discoloration that can be a result of the treatment.


  1. Rozenfeld E, Kalichman L. New is the well-forgotten old: the use of dry cupping in musculoskeletal medicine. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2016; 20(1), 173–178.

  2. Cao H, et al. Clinical research evidence of cupping therapy in China: a systematic literature review. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2010; 10(1): 1–10.

  3. Cao H, Li X, Yan X, Wang NS, Bensoussan A, Liu J. Cupping therapy for acute and chronic pain management: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. J Tradit Chin Med. 2014: 1(1): 49–61.

  4. Chi LM, et al. The effectiveness of cupping therapy on relieving chronic neck and shoulder pain: a randomized controlled trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016; 2016: 1-7.

  5. Lauche R, et al. The effect of traditional cupping on pain and mechanical thresholds in patients with chronic nonspecific neck pain: a randomised controlled pilot study. Evid Based Complement and Alternat Me. 2012; 2012: 1-10.​

Read More Articles by EXOS Regarding Youth Athletes:

Avoiding Injury in the Year Round Athlete

Concussion: Return to Play Q&A

Concussion Injury Prevention in Youth Sports

Dry Needling the Pediatric Population - Applicability and Safety

Ice Baths Done Right

Brittani Cookinham, EXOS Texas

Brittani Cookinham, PT, DPT, ATC, LAT

Is the Physical Therapy Manager at EXOS, a sports training facility in Frisco, Texas, and a United States Olympic team sports medicine volunteer. She attended Sacred Heart University where she obtained her Bachelors of Science in Athletic Training and her Doctorate in Physical Therapy.

Call: 214-618-3246

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