Michael Phelps garnered much attention at the 2016 Summer Olympics not only for his record collection of gold medals, but also for the odd-looking symmetrical circles that covered his back. He used an ancient Chinese healing technique that he believed would advance his training and help him recover from the grueling workouts that he put his body through in order to prepare for competition.  And what is the “Ancient Chinese healing technique”?  Well, myofascial decompression of course.

Cupping therapy, doctor removes cup from the patient’s back

At Optimum Physical Therapy and Wellness, we utilize myofascial decompression (MFD) or cupping as it’s more commonly called, to assist patients with their rehabilitation from injury and/or pain. Many patients are having successful outcomes and have begun asking for it on a weekly basis. 

How is myofascial decompression/cupping used in the clinical setting.

With the patient positioned situated in a comfortable position the therapist begins by applying a small amount of lotion over the area to be treated.  They then place a plastic cup matching the size of the tissues is placed over the area; a tube is then attached with a suction pump at the end. The therapist pumps the device several times to lift the tissues into the cup, the cup will remain in place for anywhere from 2-5 minutes on average. More cups may be placed above or below the area. During treatment the therapist may ask you to perform exercises to work the muscle, or muscle group, being treated. while the suction is taking place. This often seems hard but after several repetitions, it does get easier. Finally, the therapist may release a small amount of pressure which makes it easier to drag the cup across the lifted tissues providing more of a massage effect.

MFD is a novel approach to musculoskeletal treatment, utilizing negative pressure tools and western medicine-based movement paradigms and algorithms. These applications are very effective for orthopedics, sports medicine, contractures, post-op recovery, overcoming dominance strategies, postural syndromes, hand therapy, neuro re-education, and scar mobilization.  A variety of patients have been benefitting from the addition of MFD to our clinic techniques; from Fibromyalgia, to Scoliosis, to Iliotibial Band Syndrome and scar tissue, the results have been significant.  MFD/cupping is tolerated well by the patient initially because the patient just remains in a comfortable position while the cupping is performed. 

Some of the benefits of MFD:

Increased blood flow via negative pressure

Reduced muscle stiffness and pain

Improved range of motion

Elevated space to reduce compression on tendons

Increases scar mobility

Assists with healing so athletes can train harder and longer

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