Cupping Therapy for Massage Therapists

Introduction to Cupping Therapy for Massage Therapists

Ever wondered what cupping therapy is all about? If you’re a massage therapist seeking to broaden your skills or a student exploring new techniques, you’re in the right place to learn about this unique form of therapy.

So, what is cupping therapy exactly? Cupping therapy is an alternative medicine practice that uses special cups to create a vacuum on the skin. This vacuum promotes increased blood flow to the area, which can produce various health benefits. Today, cupping therapy is increasingly embraced by the wellness community, blending traditional methods with modern therapeutic approaches and technology.

In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of cupping therapy, from its historical roots to the basic techniques, benefits and effects. You’ll learn about the equipment needed to provide cupping therapy for your clients, and ways to incorporate it into your massage practice. The goal of this article is to equip you with the essential information you need to decide if cupping is something you want to pursue further in your professional development. Let’s get started!

What is Cupping Therapy? History & Overview

Cupping therapy is far from a contemporary trend; its origins can be traced back to ancient civilizations. Documents from as early as 1550 B.C. show that the Egyptians were already practicing it, and they were not the only ones. The ancient Greeks were also proponents of the technique, and it has been a fundamental element of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for many centuries. It’s interesting to see how this ancient technique has endured and been embraced by various cultures throughout history.

The term ‘cupping’ comes from the process. Practitioners place cups, originally crafted from glass, bamboo, or even animal horns, on the skin. By applying heat, they create a vacuum causing the skin to rise into the cup, thereby increasing blood flow to the area.

In Chinese tradition, this procedure does more than just promote circulation. It’s seen as a way to stimulate Qi (or chi), the essential life energy coursing through our bodies. According to TCM theory, if Qi gets blocked, you get sick, and cupping is used as a way to balance it out and restore health.

Fast forward to today, cupping is a global phenomenon. Modern practitioners use glass or silicone cups, often opting for vacuum pumps instead of heat to generate the necessary suction. Despite the updated equipment, the core idea remains unchanged: amplify local blood flow to foster healing and wellbeing.

Today, you’ll often see athletes and celebrities showing off their cupping marks—a testament to the therapy’s rising popularity. Remember those photos of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps with his back dotted with cupping marks? But it’s not just for the stars. Cupping is accessible to everyone and is finding its place in massage practices around the world.

Science and Benefits of Cupping Therapy

The Science & Benefits of Cupping

Cupping therapy works on a simple principle: suction. When the therapist places a cup on a client’s skin and creates a vacuum, the skin and superficial soft tissues get drawn up into the cup. This action stimulates fluid movement and causes a localized increase in blood flow to the area under the cup.

From a medical perspective, the surge in blood enriches the area with oxygen and nutrients and also helps remove cellular debris and toxins. This process has a number of beneficial effects on the body systems, including:

  1. Enhanced Circulation: The localized suction stimulates increased blood flow, helping to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the muscles and skin.
  2. Pain Relief: Many people find that cupping helps reduce pain, from general aches to conditions like neck pain and lower back pain. This might be due to the increased blood flow and the resulting relaxation of muscles.
  3. Promotes Relaxation: The process of undergoing cupping therapy can often feel like a deep tissue massage, helping to alleviate stress and promote relaxation.
  4. Detoxification: The increased blood flow can help flush out toxins and support the body’s natural process of detoxification.
  5. Boosts Skin Health: By bringing oxygen rich blood to your skin and helping to remove toxins, cupping can lead to healthier-looking skin.
  6. Supports Digestive Health: Some people find that cupping on certain points of the body can help improve digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  7. Stimulating Lymphatic System: Cupping therapy is believed to stimulate the flow of lymph in the body, which functions in the removal of toxins and waste while also potentially reducing fluid accumulation in tissues. By improving lymphatic circulation and increasing blood flow to treated areas, cupping may indirectly enhance immune response and overall body wellness.

While there are benefits of cupping, it’s important to remember that responses to the therapy can vary from person to person. Some people may see significant improvements in their conditions, while others may experience more subtle changes. Also, cupping, like any therapeutic treatment, is best used as part of an integrated approach to health and wellbeing.

As for scientific research on cupping, there’s a growing body of evidence supporting its effectiveness for a variety of conditions, from chronic pain to skin conditions. However, more rigorous, high-quality studies are needed to further establish these findings and to better understand the exact mechanisms by which cupping works. We’ll look at some research on cupping therapy towards the end of this article.

Different Types of Cupping Therapy

Different Types of Cupping Therapy

When it comes to different types of cupping therapy, there are two main types: dry cupping and wet cupping. Both types of cupping involve placing cups on the skin to create suction. Both methods also have different variations and applications, each with their own techniques and benefits.

Dry Cupping

Dry cupping, AKA traditional cupping, is a type of therapy where a therapist places specialized cups on your skin, often on the back, and creates a vacuum by suctioning out the air. The suction pulls the skin, fascia, and superficial muscles upward into the cup, promoting increased blood flow and loosening tight muscles. There are several methods of dry cupping which we’ll get to in a minute.

Wet Cupping

Wet cupping, also known as Hijama, is a more intensive form of cupping therapy that incorporates controlled medicinal bleeding. After dry cupping, the therapist makes small incisions on the skin’s surface and applies the cup again to draw out a small amount of blood. This technique is believed to eliminate toxins and harmful substances from the body, promoting healing and wellbeing.

Methods of Dry Cupping

Static Cupping

Static cupping is a form of dry cupping, where cups are placed on certain points on the body and left in place for a duration, typically between 3-5 minutes. The cup creates a vacuum that pulls the skin and superficial muscle layer into the cup, promoting blood flow and relieving muscle tension. This technique is particularly beneficial for individuals dealing with muscle stiffness, pain, or injury, and those seeking relaxation.

Dynamic Cupping

Dynamic cupping, also called massage cuppinggliding cupping, or running cupping, is a variation of dry cupping where the cup is moved on the skin rather than being left in one place. This is typically done by applying oil to the skin, allowing the cup to glide smoothly across muscle groups, essentially providing a deep tissue massage. This method is particularly effective at promoting circulation, easing stiffness, and alleviating deep-seated muscle tension.

Fire Cupping

The fire cupping method involves briefly setting a flame within a glass cup for a few seconds to create a vacuum before immediately placing it on the skin. This small flame is created using a flammable substance like alcohol or herbs. The fire warms the air and burns off the oxygen so that as the air inside the cup cools, it forms a vacuum (negative pressure), causing the skin to rise and redden as blood vessels expand, enhancing circulation to the region. A similar method called hot cupping or thermal cupping also warms the cup itself. This heat then gently warms the treatment site, which can help further relax the muscles and improve blood circulation.

Flash Cupping

Flash cupping, a type of dry cupping, involves quickly placing and removing a cup multiple times in succession on the same area. The goal is to stimulate the area with a rapid series of suction and release movements, enhancing circulation and loosening muscle tissue. This technique can be beneficial for persistent knots or areas of high muscle tension.

Vacuum Cupping Set for Massage Therapist

Cupping Equipment and Supplies

Massage therapists interested in providing cupping therapy will need some specific equipment and supplies. Each tool is crucial to perform safe and effective treatments. Here’s a list of the key pieces of equipment every massage therapist needs for cupping therapy, along with some pointers on what you need to know about selecting and using cupping tools in your practice.

  • Cups: come in a range of sizes, from 1 to 3+ inches in diameter, to accommodate different body areas. Material choice also matters. Glass cups, the old-school choice, are favored for fire cupping, and they provide the best skin visibility. Flexible silicone or plastic are optimal for dynamic cupping. If you want easy suction control, plastic cups with built-in pumps are your best bet. Bamboo cups are less common but can add a touch of tradition to your toolkit if that’s important to you.
  • Pump: The pump, often used in conjunction with modern cupping sets, ensures a consistent and controlled level of suction during the therapy. It allows therapists to easily adjust the pressure inside the cup, making the process more comfortable and tailored for each client. Additionally, pumps eliminate the need for fire, providing a safer and more streamlined alternative to traditional methods.
  • Oil or Cream: Oil or other lubricant plays an essential role, especially in dynamic cupping, facilitating smooth movement of the cups across the skin. It reduces friction, preventing skin irritation and allowing the therapist to manipulate the cup with ease. Therapists often opt for hypoallergenic, organic or therapeutic-grade oils to ensure skin health and enhance the overall cupping experience.
  • Cleaning Supplies: Proper cleaning of cupping equipment is important to maintain hygiene and sanitation. After use, each cup is washed with warm soapy water and thoroughly disinfected. Once sanitized, cups should be air-dried on a clean towel and stored in a clean environment to ensure they remain uncontaminated until the next use. Equipment used for wet cupping needs to be sterilized.

Making the Right Equipment Choices

Quality should be at the forefront when you’re picking out your cupping equipment. Choose cups that offer durability, safety, and ease of cleaning. Remember to think about your specific needs – if moving cupping is your main technique, silicone cups could be your ideal pick. But if static dry cupping is more your style, you might want to go for glass or plastic cups with a pump for precise suction control.

Choosing suppliers with a solid reputation is key. Make sure to research, check customer reviews, and assess product quality before buying. You’re investing in your clients’ safety and satisfaction, which directly affects your practice’s reputation and success.

How to Perform Cupping Therapy Safely

How to Perform Cupping Safely

Safety should always come first. Here are some practical steps to help you deliver cupping massage therapy effectively and safely. 

  1. Know Your Client’s History: Before administering cupping therapy, it’s important to obtain a comprehensive health history from your client. This includes understanding any past surgeries, skin conditions or pathologies, recent infections, blood disorders, or medications they’re on, as these can influence their reaction to cupping or even contraindicate the procedure.
  2. Ensure Sanitation: Sanitation of cupping tools is essential to prevent infections and ensure client safety. Always clean and disinfect cups and other equipment using a proper disinfectant before and after each session.
  3. Suction Sensibly: The vacuum’s power can be adjusted, so start low and slow. This is crucial to avoid injury during cupping sessions. As you increase suction, keep an eye on your client’s skin. A deep red or purple color means it’s time to dial it back. Always monitor the client’s comfort level, ensuring the vacuum pressure isn’t too intense, and limit the time each cup stays on the skin to avoid potential tissue damage.
  4. Be Aware of Delicate Areas: Cupping should not be done on certain areas of the body like the eyes, irritated skin, and over pathologies like varicose veins. Massage therapists should be careful when applying cupping techniques at or near areas of caution, where delicate structures could be damaged.
  5. Post-Session Guidance: Freshly cupped skin can be tender. Advise your clients to stay hydrated, avoid heavy exercise and extreme temperatures, and apply a mild, non-irritating lotion or oil to the treated area to help with healing and comfort. Additionally, therapists should inform clients that it is normal to have circular marks or bruises on the treated areas, which usually fade away within a week or so.
  6. Listen to Your Client: Your client’s feedback is vital. If they tell you something doesn’t feel right, then stop everything or decrease the suction immediately. While performing cupping, it’s important to tune in to what your client is saying as well as their nonverbal communication (e.g., body language, facial expressions), as this helps tailor the pressure and technique to what they’re comfortable with, and it also builds trust and makes the treatment more effective.
  7. Warm Up: Consider warming up the soft tissues with a gentle massage before starting with the cupping treatment. It eases the client into the session and helps the blood flow better, increasing the effectiveness of cupping.

Integrating Cupping with Massage Therapy

Cupping therapy can be a stand-alone treatment or blended seamlessly with manual therapy techniques. It is a good companion for many types of massage and can add value to your current services. Combining cupping therapy with massage can be incredibly effective for treating a variety of issues. Think of cupping as another tool in your toolbox.

For example, consider a client who comes in with chronic lower back pain and tightness. After a thorough assessment, you might start the session with some gentle myofascial release techniques to relax the superficial muscles and fascia and warm up the tissues. Then, apply cups along the erector spinae muscles and the surrounding areas.

After removing the cups, you can then perform deeper massage techniques, like deep tissue massage or trigger point therapy at adjacent areas, to target specific areas of tension and adhesion. This combination of treatments can help to reduce muscle spasms, improve mobility, and provide lasting relief from pain. Remember to check in with your client throughout the session to ensure their comfort and adjust your approach as needed.

Another option is to combine dynamic cupping with massage therapy to get better results for your clients through its synergistic effects.

Imagine a client who is an avid runner and presents with tightness and discomfort in their calves, hamstrings and iliotibial band (ITB). After starting the session with some light stretching and warm-up massage strokes, you could apply a thin layer of oil or lotion to the skin and then use a silicone cup to create suction on the affected area. Rather than leaving the cup in place, you can glide it along the muscle, using the suction and movement of the cup to lift and stretch the tissue.

This dynamic cupping technique acts like a reverse massage, pulling the tissue upwards instead of compressing it, which can be particularly effective for releasing fascial restrictions and improving tissue hydration. Follow this with some targeted sports massage techniques, such as petrissage or friction, to further address any muscle tightness or adhesions.

This combination can help to improve flexibility, reduce muscle soreness, and enhance overall athletic performance. And as always, it’s important to communicate with your client throughout the session to ensure their comfort and adjust your technique as needed.

MBLEx practice tests for the massage exam

MBLEx Practice Test

Massage students who use our MBLEx practice tests have a greater chance of passing the massage exam the first time. Our quizzes and full-length exams cover of all seven content areas of the MBLEx exam. They provide correct answer rationales and record your results for later review.

Client Education and Communication

Client education and clear communication are fundamental to any successful massage treatment and practice. Before providing cupping therapy, discuss with your clients the benefits of cupping and massage, setting appropriate expectations, potential after-effects, associated risks, and the mechanics of the process.

Additionally, obtain a detailed health history and screening for any contraindications before starting the treatment. Check out our massage intake forms for downloadable PDF versions of health history forms, cupping therapy consent and release form, SOAP note forms, and other useful forms for massage therapists.

It is essential for massage therapists to also obtain informed consent from clients before starting cupping therapy, as this ensures that the client is fully aware of the process, potential risks, and benefits, and agrees to the treatment plan, thereby protecting both the client and the therapist.

Here is a list summarizing the key points to discuss with clients:

  • Explain the Potential Benefits: Clearly explain how the combination of cupping and massage can address specific issues, such as reducing muscle tension, enhancing circulation, or alleviating pain.
  • Set Expectations: Outline what the client can realistically expect from the treatment. While some may experience immediate relief, others may require multiple sessions to see significant improvements. This can help with building rapport and trust, especially for new clients.
  • Discuss After-Effects: Inform the client about common post-treatment effects, such as soreness, circular marks or light bruising, and reassure them that these typically fade within a week. Also, provide aftercare recommendations, such as staying hydrated and avoiding strenuous exercise.
  • Highlight the Risks: Discuss any potential risks or side effects associated with the treatment.
  • Explain the Process: Describe what the client may feel during the process. Instruct the client how they should give you feedback during the treatment and that they can stop the process at any time.
  • Obtain Health History: Ask about any medical conditions, medications, or recent injuries that could impact the treatment. Educate the client on contraindications like skin infections or certain medical conditions.
  • Secure Informed Consent: Clearly explain the treatment plan and secure the client’s consent before starting.

By ensuring clear and thorough communication, you can create a comfortable and informed environment for your clients, which is key to a successful treatment and practice.

Cupping Massage Therapy

Incorporating Cupping Massage Therapy into Your Practice

Integrating cupping massage therapy into your practice involves more than just getting the right equipment; it’s about building a foundation of knowledge and crafting an experience that complements your existing services. First, seek out comprehensive training that covers both the theory and application of cupping therapy. Online or in-person courses, tailored to your skill level, are widely available.

Next, consider how cupping fits into your treatment menu. For some, it might be a targeted add-on after a traditional massage session to relieve muscle tension. For others, it could be an entirely separate service for clients seeking alternative wellness options.

Adding cupping therapy to your repertoire can benefit your practice in multiple ways. It not only diversifies your service menu, attracting a wider variety of clients, but also positions you as a holistic wellness specialist. Plus, a huge bonus – cupping isn’t physically demanding and won’t strain your hands or body, which is a relief given the physical demands of traditional massage techniques. In fact, cupping can be a good self-care strategy for massage therapists as well as clients. It’s a win-win addition to your practice!

Introducing a new service like cupping therapy at your practice involves a well-thought-out plan. Here’s how you can go about it:

  1. Educate Yourself: Make sure you have a thorough understanding of cupping therapy, its benefits, potential side effects, and aftercare. You need to be able to answer any questions your clients may have. Consider if this service is consistent with your niche, and if your target market will likely be receptive to it. *Cupping is within the scope of practice for most massage therapists, but it is a good idea to confirm this with your state board of massage. You will also need to make sure that cupping is covered by your current massage liability insurance policy, and add it if it isn’t currently included.
  2. Get Certified: If possible, take a live in-person cupping course to get certified to provide cupping therapy. This not only ensures you are properly trained but will also build your confidence and trust with your clients.
  3. Update Your Service Menu: Add cupping therapy to your list of services, and include a brief description of the benefits and what to expect during and after the treatment.
  4. Inform & Educate Your Clients: Send out an email or newsletter to your existing clients, informing them about the new service. Highlight the benefits of cupping therapy and any introductory offers you might have. During appointments, take a few minutes to talk to your clients about cupping therapy, its benefits, and why it might be a good fit for them. You could also write a case study or two (AKA success story), showing real results that other clients have received.
  5. Offer a Promotion: Consider offering a special promotion for the first month, such as a discount on a cupping and massage combo treatment.
  6. Display Information: Have informational brochures or flyers available in your waiting area or at the reception desk that clients can take home.
  7. Update Your Website: Make sure to update your website with information about cupping therapy, including a detailed description of the service, benefits, and any introductory offers.
  8. Leverage Social Media: Use your social media platforms to create awareness about the new service. Share client testimonials, and educational content about cupping therapy.

Remember, the key to successfully introducing a new service like cupping therapy is to educate your clients about its benefits and how it can complement their existing treatment plan.

Case Study

The following is a hypothetical case study exploring how the client (Sarah), achieved relief from chronic lower back pain through a personalized treatment plan combining traditional massage and cupping therapy. This study highlights the potential of an integrated approach in addressing persistent chronic pain and improving overall quality of life.

Relief from Chronic Back Pain through Cupping Therapy

Client Background

Sarah, a 40-year-old office worker, had been experiencing chronic lower back pain for over two years. Despite trying various treatments such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, and regular massage therapy, the pain persisted, affecting her daily activities and quality of life. Sarah’s massage therapist suggested incorporating cupping therapy into her treatment plan to address the persistent pain.

Problem Statement

Chronic lower back pain is a pervasive issue that affects a significant portion of the adult population worldwide. For many, like Sarah, this relentless pain becomes a hindrance to daily activities and severely impacts their overall quality of life. Despite seeking various traditional treatments, such as physical therapy, chiropractic care, and regular massage therapy, many, including Sarah, find only temporary relief.

The persistent nature of the pain, coupled with the inability to find a lasting solution, often leads to a vicious cycle of pain, stress, and decreased physical activity. Consequently, finding an effective, non-invasive treatment that can provide not only immediate relief but also address the underlying issues contributing to the chronic pain is of paramount importance. This case study aims to explore the effectiveness of combining cupping therapy with traditional massage therapy as a holistic approach to managing and potentially alleviating chronic lower back pain.

Treatment Plan

The treatment plan involved a combination of massage therapy and cupping therapy over six sessions, spread across six weeks. Each session started with a 30-minute deep tissue massage, focusing on the lower back and surrounding areas to loosen the muscles and prepare the tissue for cupping.

This was followed by a 20-minute cupping therapy session, where silicone cups were placed on the lower back and surrounding areas to create suction and lift the tissue. The cups were left in place for 5 minutes and then used to apply running cupping techniques. This technique, known as dynamic cupping, helps to increase blood flow and release fascial adhesions.


After the first session, Sarah reported feeling a sense of relief and decreased tension in her lower back. As the sessions progressed, she noticed a significant reduction in pain and an increased range of motion. By the end of the sixth session, Sarah reported a 70% reduction in her lower back pain and a noticeable improvement in her overall well-being. She was able to resume her daily activities without discomfort and even started a gentle exercise routine.


Incorporating cupping therapy into Sarah’s treatment plan proved to be highly effective in addressing her chronic lower back pain. The combination of deep tissue massage and cupping therapy not only reduced her pain but also improved her range of motion and overall quality of life. This case study demonstrates the potential benefits of combining cupping therapy with massage therapy for clients suffering from chronic pain and highlights the importance of a personalized approach to treatment.

Research on Cupping Therapy

Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy in Patients With the Fibromyalgia Syndrome: A Randomized Placebo Controlled Trial (2016)

This randomized placebo-controlled trial evaluated the effectiveness of cupping therapy on 141 fibromyalgia patients by comparing pain intensity and quality of life among groups assigned to cupping therapy, sham, or usual care. Although patients reported significantly less pain and better quality of life after cupping compared to usual care, the effects were small and comparable to sham treatment.

The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial (2016)

This randomized controlled trial studied the impact of cupping therapy (CT) on chronic neck and shoulder pain (NSP) in 60 subjects, assessing pain using skin surface temperature (SST), visual analog scale (VAS), and blood pressure (BP). The results indicated that one treatment of CT significantly increased SST and reduced neck pain intensity (NPI) compared to the control group, suggesting that while CT can alleviate NSP intensity and raise SST, further research is needed to comprehend its potential long-term effects.

Cupping for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review (2015)

This systematic review aimed to assess the effectiveness of cupping as a treatment for pain by examining randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that tested cupping in patients with pain from any origin. While seven RCTs met the inclusion criteria and two RCTs indicated significant pain reduction for cupping in low back pain, cancer pain, trigeminal neuralgia, and brachialgia compared with usual care, analgesics, and anticancer drugs, one RCT showed no superior effects of cupping on herpes zoster pain compared with antiviral medication. Despite these positive findings, the review concluded that most existing trials are of poor quality, and more rigorous studies are needed to determine the effectiveness of cupping in pain management.

Effects of Cupping Therapy in Amateur and Professional Athletes: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials (2018)

This systematic review aimed to summarize clinical trials’ evidence on cupping’s efficacy and safety for athletes by reviewing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing cupping effects to any other intervention on professional, semi-professional, and leisure athletes’ health and performance outcomes. Eleven trials involving 498 participants from various countries and sports disciplines reported perceived benefits of cupping, including pain and disability reduction, increased range of motion, and creatine kinase reductions compared to mostly untreated control groups; however, due to the majority of trials having an unclear or high risk of bias and none reporting safety, the study concluded that more research is needed for a conclusive judgment on cupping’s efficacy and safety in athletes.

Is Cupping Therapy Effective in Patients with Neck Pain? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2019)

This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate cupping’s effects on neck pain, analyzing 18 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared cupping therapy as a sole or add-on intervention to no treatment or active controls. The results demonstrated that the cupping group exhibited a significant reduction in pain and improvement in function and quality of life compared to no intervention or active control groups; however, the low quality of evidence of the included studies prevented definitive conclusions, indicating the need for future well-designed studies to substantiate cupping’s effectiveness on neck pain.

Training and Certification

If you’re interested in offering cupping therapy as part of your client services, it’s important to first get proper training. This not only ensures the safety and well-being of your clients but also enhances your credibility as a practitioner. One thing to keep in mind: different states have different requirements regarding the practice of cupping therapy. So familiarize yourself with the laws and regulations in your state to ensure you’re practicing legally and ethically.

Here are the key steps to getting started with cupping therapy:

  1. Choose a Reputable Training Program: To learn cupping therapy, look for a comprehensive training program that is accredited by a recognized body or organization. The program should cover both theoretical knowledge, including the history of cupping, its benefits and physiological effects, contraindications, precautions, anatomy, and equipment, as well as practical applications, including different cupping techniques and how to integrate them with massage and other common treatments like heat or cold.
  2. Complete the Training: The duration of the training can vary, but most programs consist of a combination of in-person workshops and online classes, along with practical demonstrations and assessments. Make sure to complete all the required coursework, assessments, and hands-on practice sessions.
  3. Obtain Certification: Upon successful completion of the training program, you will receive a certificate indicating that you are qualified to practice cupping therapy. Make sure to keep a copy of your certificate and display it prominently in your practice.
  4. Promote Your Service: Inform your clients about your new cupping service through your website, social media, newsletters, or flyers at your practice. Consider offering a discounted package that combines cupping with a regular massage session to encourage clients to experience the combined benefits and integrate it into their wellness routine.
  5. Keep Learning: The field of massage therapy and cupping is always evolving, so it’s important to stay updated with the latest research, techniques, and best practices. Consider joining professional organizations, attending workshops, and reading industry publications.

Final Thoughts

Adding cupping therapy to your massage practice can be a game-changer, offering pain relief, improved circulation, and relaxation to your clients. It’s a great way to stand out in a crowded market and provide extra value. But remember, proper training, certification, and client communication about the benefits, risks, and aftercare are key.

Also, managing client expectations, getting informed consent, and ensuring their comfort and safety is paramount. Ultimately, the goal is to provide a tailored wellness approach that meets each client’s individual needs. With the right training, communication, and approach, cupping therapy can be a rewarding addition to your practice, benefiting both you and your clients.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Cupping Massage

Does cupping work?

Yes, cupping therapy has shown effectiveness in reducing pain, inflammation, and promoting relaxation for many clients, though results can vary individually.

What are the benefits of cupping therapy?

Cupping offers numerous benefits such as promoting muscle relaxation, improving blood circulation, aiding in pain relief, reducing inflammation, promoting relaxation, and even helping with respiratory conditions.

Are there different types of cupping?

Yes, there are several types of cupping therapy, including dry cupping, where suction is created in the cups and left on the skin; wet cupping, which involves making small incisions on the skin before applying the cups to draw out small amounts of blood; and moving or dynamic cupping, where the cups are moved across the skin to provide a massage-like effect.

How does cupping work with massage therapy?

Cupping therapy complements massage therapy by using suction to lift the tissues and promote circulation, helping to release deeply held tension and adhesions in the muscles, which can make the subsequent massage techniques more effective and facilitate deeper relaxation and healing.

Is cupping painful?

While cupping can cause some discomfort or a tight feeling due to the suction, it should not be painful; any pain or significant discomfort should be communicated to the therapist immediately so adjustments can be made.

What are the potential side effects of cupping?

The most common side effects of cupping therapy are temporary discomfort, temporary bruising or discoloration of the skin, a tingling or warming sensation during treatment, potential skin infections if not properly cleaned, and, in rare cases, minor burns or blisters if the cups are heated (with fire cupping) or not applied properly.

Are there any contraindications for cupping therapy?

Yes, contraindications for cupping therapy include skin infections, open wounds, severe edema, active cancer, hemophilia or other bleeding or clotting disorders, and certain areas of the body, such as varicose veins, recently healed fractures, or inflamed joints. It is also not recommended during pregnancy or for individuals with certain cardiovascular conditions, so a thorough consultation and screening are essential before starting treatment.

How long do the marks from cupping last?

The marks from cupping, sometimes called “cup kisses“, which are actually bruises caused by the broken blood vessels under the skin, usually fade away within a week to ten days, although this can vary based on the individual’s skin type, circulation, and the intensity and duration of the cupping session.

What should I expect during a cupping session?

During a cupping session, you can expect the therapist to place cups on specific areas of your body and create suction, either by using a pump or by heating the air inside the cup; this will cause your skin to rise and redden as your blood vessels expand, and you may feel a tight or warm sensation as the cups are moved or left in place for a few minutes, followed by a deep sense of relaxation as the tension in your muscles is released.

Do I need special training or certification to provide cupping therapy as a massage therapist?

Yes, to provide cupping therapy as a massage therapist, it is essential to undergo specialized training from a recognized organization to ensure you have the necessary knowledge, skills, and competence to provide safe and effective cupping therapy treatments to your clients. It is ideal to take a comprehensive training program that results in a professional certification rather than just a basic 1-2 CE course on cupping.

How should I price my cupping services in relation to my massage services?

Pricing for cupping services should reflect your level of expertise, the cost of equipment and materials, and the market rate in your area, but as a guideline, it is common for therapists to charge slightly more for cupping therapy than for a standard massage session, due to the specialized training and equipment required, although offering a bundled package of massage and cupping therapy can also be an attractive option for clients.

How can I effectively market cupping therapy to attract new clients?

Effectively marketing cupping therapy to attract new massage clients involves a combination of strategies including educating your clients about the benefits and uniqueness of cupping therapy through your website, social media, and in-person consultations, offering introductory specials or bundled packages, sharing client testimonials, and regularly engaging with your clients through newsletters or follow-up emails to keep them informed about the latest offerings and remind them of the benefits of regular cupping therapy sessions.


1. Lauche R, Cramer H, Hohmann C, et al. Effectiveness of cupping therapy in patients with the fibromyalgia syndrome-a randomised placebo controlled trial. Sci Rep. 2016;6:37316. doi:10.1038/srep37316

2. Chi LM, Lin LM, Chen CL, Wang SF, Lai HL, Peng TC. The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:7358918. doi:10.1155/2016/7358918

3. Lee MS, Kim JI, Ernst E. Cupping for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:467014. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep035

4. Bridgett R, Klose P, Duffield R, Mydock S, Lauche R. Effects of Cupping Therapy in Amateur and Professional Athletes: Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):208-219. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0191. Epub 2017 Nov 29. PMID: 29185802.

5. Kim S, Lee SH, Kim MR, Kim EJ, Hwang DS, Lee J, Shin JS, Ha IH, Lee YJ. Is cupping therapy effective in patients with neck pain? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2018 Nov 5;8(11):e021070. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-021070. PMID: 30397006; PMCID: PMC6231582.

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