Benefits of Cupping

What is Cupping and How Does it Work?

Cupping is a medical modality used throughout many traditional cultures to help heal the body. It has been used holistically for many years to treat various conditions. It has also become popular over the last few years and its use has been adapted by Western healthcare professionals, specifically to treat musculoskeletal injuries (dubbed “myofascial decompression”). Cups can be made of plastic, silicone, glass, or other materials. Cupping utilizes suction which decompresses the soft tissues. Decompression creates more space between the skin and muscles, and in turn, relaxes muscles, increases blood circulation, promotes tissue repair, and can alleviate musculoskeletal pain. Cupping may be used instead of traditional massage because compression may irritate tissues that are already very tense. Specifically, if a muscle is compressing or pinching a nerve, further compression may lead to additional aggravation of the nerve and muscle tissues. Decompression then relieves pain while using an opposing technique while achieving similar results. One effect of cupping is that it can leave circular non-tender bruise-like marks on the body after treatment. It is these spots that promoted the notoriety of Cupping when it was used by the US Olympic Men’s Swimming Team during the 2016 Summer Olympics. These marks give insight into the amount of circulation or restrictions present in the treated tissues.

Who Can Safely Perform Cupping?

In short, licensed, and qualified professionals. Acupuncturists, Massage Therapists, and even Physical Therapists have all been known to perform cupping professionally. You may wonder, which professional is the best choice to perform cupping therapy? While any of these licensed professionals may be sufficient, Acupuncture and Chinese Medical Programs at Integrative Medical schools require teaching this technique as part of their accredited curriculums. Other professionals may take cupping courses as part of continuing education classes, but Acupuncture students must show competency in this modality to graduate and become licensed. For example, at the Virginia University of Integrative Medicine, students are required to spend at least 40 hours learning the theory behind specific Advanced Clinical Techniques such as cupping and moxibustion and practicing them in the student clinic. Students take written and practical exams and must demonstrate competency in these modalities before being allowed to perform these techniques on patients. This level of training allows practitioners to show they can safely and appropriately use this therapy for its original and intended purpose.

Myths about Cupping

Unfortunately, the internet is filled with individuals who utilize cupping to gain adoration due to its popularity on social media. Many of these individuals are not licensed professionals or trained in this modality. These videos often depict cupping in an extreme, performative fashion. It is important to understand that even though these individuals may mean no harm, by showcasing inappropriate techniques, they are inadvertently spreading misinformation about Chinese Medicine and Cupping Therapy. These videos and individuals do not represent the Acupuncture community or Healthcare Professionals.

Why should I go to a Licensed Professional or Student Clinician for Cupping Therapy?

When it comes to receiving treatment, the risks of trusting unlicensed, untrained individuals are numerous and range from poor outcomes to the practitioner potentially not having malpractice insurance and the patient having limited recourse from any negative side effects.  This means that if something were to happen to you after treatment, you may absorb all the costs of your medical care. However, most Licensed Healthcare Professionals carry malpractice insurance. This insurance exists in case a medical emergency or complication occurs because of your medical treatment. This can protect you, them, and others under their supervision. It is extremely important to use a Licensed and trained professional when receiving cupping therapy. Untrained individuals may be unaware of which areas to avoid on the body or which procedures are inappropriate for those receiving treatment.

How does Cupping work with Acupuncture?

Cupping works in tandem with Acupuncture by promoting the flow of Qi and Blood throughout the body. This would assist in improving circulation and tissue repair in the affected areas. The treatment is focused on areas of deficiency that would benefit from this modality.

Who can receive Cupping?

Most anyone who is healthy enough to receive a massage usually can safely have a cupping treatment. It is important to consult with your practitioner and discuss any medical conditions you have, as cupping may not be appropriate for people with certain conditions. Usually, conditions such as cancer, acute infection, open wounds, and certain chronic illnesses, may require an alternative approach to this method. When seeking help from an Integrative Medical Practitioner, they will have other options to treat you if cupping is not aligned with the best practices for your health journey.

Where Can I Receive Cupping?

Licensed Acupuncturists or Chinese Medical Practitioners are trained to perform cupping. The Virginia University of Integrative Medicine’s Private and Student Clinic also provides this service. Students in the Clinic are supervised by Licensed Practitioners who will ultimately decide which treatment is best for the patient. If you are interested in utilizing your Health Insurance, our professional clinic works with the following Healthcare Insurers: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna, but coverage is dependent upon your insurance plan.

Clinic Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9 AM to 6 PM

Saturday: 9 AM to 6 PM

Sunday: Closed    


1980 Gallows Road, Vienna, VA 22182


(703) 323-5691



Angela Serabian

Angela Serabian is a Licensed Massage Therapist who has been in practice since 2017. She specializes in Medical and Injury Massage, Cupping Therapy, and IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization). She has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with 4 years of experience working in Non-Profit Mental Health organizations. She hopes to integrate Psychiatric, Orthopedic and Neurological therapies with Traditional Chinese Medicine.