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Myofascial Cupping at NMK

We offer 2 styles of myofascial cupping at NMK


1. Pump-Induced Vacuum Cupping:

  • Positives:

    • Able to accurately induce the exact degree of vacuum “dosage”

    • Able to apply greater vacuum pressure (if needed) than is capable with soft silicon cups 

    • Versatile - Can use smooth edge of silicon cup as an additional treatment treatment tool

    • Must have a hand-vacuum pump available

    • No risk of burn (as per fire cupping)


  • Negatives:

    • No thermal effect (as per fire cupping)

    • Difficult to obtain vacuum seal to unusually shaped regions of the body and small surface areas

2. Soft Silicon Cupping:

  • Positives:

    • Able to cup over unusually shaped and small surface areas of the body

    • No need to use a vacuum hand pump (Convenient & portable)

    • No risk of burn (as per fire cupping)


  • Negatives:

    • No thermal effect (as per fire cupping)

    • No smooth edge to use as additional fascial treatment tool.

    • Reduced maximum vacuum pressure vs Pump-Induced Cupping


NB - Glass Fire Cupping is a traditional style of cupping that is not available at NMK.

Treatment Parameters For Myofascial Cupping at NMK

Myofascial Cupping is commonly used during remedial treatment to mobilise the Myo-fascial system.

Great outcomes can be achieved with this technique by applying a conservative "minimum effective dose" approach, so that unnecessary trauma and bruising is avoided.

With respect to the Chinese Medicine origins of cupping therapies, our clinic is not a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinic and the way in which we operate is more reflective of the principles of western remedial massage practices. With the exception of therapists who are qualified in TCM and can explain the Eastern-style principals and treatment rationale to the client, for our remedial / Western-trained therapists at NMK, myofascial cupping treatments are be performed in a manner which aims to maximise wellbeing and clinical outcomes without does not harm the client and enhances their wellbeing without causing any avoidable soft tissue damage.


Treating within these parameters is essential to maintain both the reputation of you as a therapist and to protect the public image of the clinic. As a large clinic with a diverse referral network that has been built on hard work and exceptionally high levels of professionalism it is vital that we maintain the trust of these practitioners.

These practitioners may well be “put off” if they see patients with circular bruises caused by the “stronger”, more aggressive applications of vacuum cupping. They are not seeing the patient through the same eyes as a Chinese Medical practitioner so they may not have an understanding of the technique and its philosophical basis.  


If you have any questions or queries surrounding this and would like to discuss the matter further please contact your training coordinator or clinic management.


Why is cupping useful?

  • Cupping can effectively mobilise dysfunctional components of the myofascial tissue to restore its mobility and function.

  • The technique is especially targeted to the superficial fascial layer and the Epimysium which surrounds the muscles.

  • Less load and stress is placed on the therapist by using a treatment tool such as vacuum cupping which will allows a greater potential for longevity within the industry whilst still achieving results for our clients.


How does Myofascial Cupping positively change tissue mobility?

There are a number of theories:

1. The Stimulation of Fibroblast activation: The applied force may stimulate the fibroblasts within the connective tissue to maintain an ideal level of glycosaminoglycans.This may permit optimal retention of water molecules to allow the ground substance to maintain an ideal volume. By maintaining this volume there will be less likelihood of adjacent collagen fibres binding to each other by the formation of unwanted cross linkages.


2. The Disruption of excessive collagen cross linkages: The external force supplied may also disrupt any unnecessary collagen cross linkages that may already exist that are binding adjacent collagen fibres together. This disruption may allow the tissue to optimally elongate and stretch.


3. The Thixotropic-like nature of connective tissue: (or the Plastic deformation model)

The founder of the Rolfing technique, Ida Rolf, used this explanation to account for the changes evident in fascial tissue after treatment – If something is thixotropic it means that it is capable of changing its state, for example, from a dense thickened form to a more fluid “plastic” form when external energy is applied. Many now discredit this concept in relation to connective tissue however if we advance an explanation of delayed thixotrophy where the effect occurs over time and NOT instantaneously post treatment it may still be a relevant concept.


4. Through the Activation of mechano-receptors: Clinician & researcher Robert Schleip in particular has thrown doubt on the above theories in favour of a more neurological explanation where mechano-receptors are activated by the application of external force. Schleip stresses the need to treat the tissue from a number of directions to maximize the positive effect.


More research is required in this space but at the end of the day all what we know for certain is that Myofascial Cupping does affect connective tissue in a positive way and all the above theories provide a possible explanation as to how/why.


Contra-Indications to Vacuum Cupping 

Absolute Contra-Indications:

- Skins lesions, skin fragility, Myofascial attachment sites to bone.

- History of Vascular disease e.g. previous incidents of Deep vein thrombosis varicose veins

- Vulnerable regions of the body such as the anterior and lateral cervical region, femoral triangle of the groin, Medial upper arm, Popliteal & Cubital fossa and the abdomen are also contra-indicated to cupping. Gross fascial dysfunction does not occur in these locations. Specific fascial dysfunction does occur and can be easily treated more precisely with hands on techniques.


Relative Contra-Indications:

- Pregnancy. The release of Relaxin and other hormones during pregnancy, to allow the connective tissue in the pelvis to elongate and allow the child to move through the birth canal, may also cause the general fascia structure to change with less external force than the tissue in non-pregnancy mode. It is therefore wise, as with any technique during pregnancy, to be conservative and watch the tissue carefully to ensure adverse reaction doesn’t occur.

- Blood thinning medications such as Aspirin or Warfarin which may increase the risk of bruising.

- Clients who bruise easily.


Other considerations:

Long term users of Steroid medications may also be more susceptible to bruising. Cupping can also cause excessive stress on the tenoperiosteal junction, where the muscle attaches to the bone, and even avulsion injury where a portion of the periosteum is pulled away from the bone, for example, on the medial shin (Soleus attachment to the medial tibia) and the lateral knee (Vastus Lateralis attachment to the lateral patella) hence the reason to stay clear of attachment sites to bone and exercise moderation when applying the technique.


Steps to follow when applying vacuum cupping:

1. Have the cups and pump CLEAN and within easy reach.

2. Prepare the client with an explanation of what cupping is, why you believe it will be effective for the client and how we believe it works. Always ask for client consent before applying this technique, and advise the client that there is potential for them to bruise, however you will aim to minimise this. 

3. Show the client the cup and apply it to your own arm to demonstrate the procedure for them.


The following 5 tips will help minimise bruising and maximise the positive effects of the technique:

1. Watch and monitor the colour of the tissue being treated and avoid allowing the tissue to become a deep red/purple colour. Keep it to a pink colour. As soon as the colour changes to a red/purple remove the cup.

2. Don’t leave the cups on for more than 2 minutes (initially).

3. Be aware of your patient's skin type: Fair skin will bruise more easily than “olive” skin

4. Monitor the degree of Vacuum inside the cup by watching the degree of skin raise within the vacuum cup to ensure it is not excessive.

5. Check-in regularly with the client to understand how they are feeling and how intense the pain/sensation is. Use the pain scale from 1-10 and avoid exceeding 7/10.


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