What is Cupping and who is it for?

Aug 12, 2021

Myofascial decompression (MFD), also known as cupping, is a therapeutic approach using negative pressure – decompression on the soft tissue. Ancient cultures in China, Greece and Egypt have already been using this therapy, originally with fire and various cups made of glass or bamboo. In modern medicine, plastic vacuum cups are used with a pneumatic pump. This type of treatment is used for many chronic musculoskeletal disorders, entrapment syndromes, re-education of the movements that have been impaired due to pain or tightness, adhesions and many more. In literature, the term cupping is used more in connection with massage, aesthetics or Chinese medicine, whereas the term MFD is used mostly in sport rehabilitation.

Principle of MFD/cupping

The decompression underneath the cup lifts the skin and underlaying layers of the soft tissue such as fascia. Fascia is a sheet of connective tissue which encloses, stabilizes and attaches muscles – superficial fascia. The function of this structure is to reduce the friction between underlaying layers; hence they should glide against each other, however, sometimes an adhesion may occur. This might be a result of an injury, compensatory movement patterns or surgery (scar adhesion). Such adhesion restricts movements, particularly around joints. We can also find fascia deeper, where it suspends the internal organs – visceral fascia, which is not of our interest in this context.



  • Circulatory
  • Tension/tightness release
  • Soft tissue mobilisation
  • Increase of the range of motion
  • Pain decrease


As the approach itself is very old, over time several categories and subcategories have been developed. Based on the considered criteria, cupping can be classified into 6 main categories:

  • technical based: dry, wet, flash, massage
  • power of the suction based: light, medium, strong, pulsative
  • method based: fire, manual suction, automatic suction
  • material inside the cups based: needle, herbs, magnet, laser, water, electricity
  • area treated based: pedi, fascial, abdominal, women’s health, men’s health
  • other types: cosmetic, aquatic, sports (MFD)

Application in Physiotherapy

In modern physiotherapy, the most used method is dry cupping (also known as static or retained), where the cups are applied on the area of the treatment and left on for about 15 minutes. The negative pressure can be controlled by the number of the suctions (the more the deeper) or by the time of the exposure to the fire if using this technique. Such cupping increases blood and lymphatic circulation and relieves muscle tension. Other favourite type is the massage cupping (also known as dynamic, moving, gliding) when the therapist applies an oil on the skin and moves the cups with a light suction on the area that is being treated. This way the soft tissue is being mobilized. Sport cupping, or as mentioned above – MFD, has been developed from the original cupping method. Athletes are performing various movement patterns and functional exercises while having the cups attached. This way the whole muscular chains can be mobilized and the range of motion increases immediately. MFD is an amazing method which can also be used for post-operative scar adhesions, which over time, if not treated, limit the range of motion. This limitation has an impact on the biomechanics of movement and compensation patterns occur.

Temporary bruises and/or skin redness occur after the cupping application, and these tend to disappear within a few days. This is a normal response for this type of treatment. Make sure to get permission from your patient before applying this technique.

What is cupping good for?

  • Muscle tension/tightness
  • Limited range of motion (f.e. frozen shoulder)
  • Soft tissue adhesions (f.e. post-operative scar)
  • Entrapment syndromes, compression (f.e. Carpal’s tunnel)
  • Tendinopathies (f.e. hamstrings)
  • Running injuries (f.e iliotibial band syndrome)


  • Open wounds
  • Skin eczema, rush etc.
  • Anaemia
  • Blood clots (current or history)
  • Taking blood thinner medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure
  • Active cancer
  • Sensitive skin

If you believe you could benefit from cupping, call us on: 0207 636 8845 and quote ‘cupping10’ to receive 10% off your first session of cupping.

If you’re still unsure if cupping is for you, why not book a FREE 15-minute discovery visit? In this complimentary visit you will have a chance to speak to a physio about your needs/and or condition and they will let you know if we can help you.

This offer is only applicable for new patients, and will run for the month of August


Since seeing Louise (following an Achilles rupture repair), I have:

- Made it back onto tennis / squash courts to (tentatively!) celebrate 1 year anniversary of my surgery 
- Ran my fastest 10k at 43.57! 
- Ran 5k in 21:30 (vs pre-surgery PB of 20:18) 
- I increased my single leg calf lift to 59 kg (vs ~18 kg initially a few months ago) 
- I had a final appt with my consultant, who discharged me while congratulating me on a wonderful recovery

All the above is to illustrate that I'm absolutely delighted with the progress I have made since last summer when I couldn't do anything and the outlook seemed bleak. I'll be forever grateful for Louise’s guidance and support as I've navigated the long road back from my injury, and I appreciate the continued advice to help me prepare for more dynamic activity. Louise has been really fantastic and I couldn't have asked for better care.

Recovering from a full Achilles rupture. Started my work with Nina in feb and my progress has only been positive and upwards and I am almost at full speed again. Nina put me back together again almost from scratch. She is the best physio I have ever worked with and will again. Very knowledgable and very hard working. Can’t recommend enough.


What a great find! My orthopaedic surgeon recommended them and I can't rate Luigi, Gloria and the team more highly. Excellent service and very effective treatment- recovering nicely!


I am 84 years old, and have always been fit and healthy and exercised regularly. 3 years ago I underwent emergency surgery for peritonitis, and had a colonoscopy bag for 6 months and straight after surgery to reversal of the stoma. After this surgery I felt my legs very weak. To complete my drama, during the last summer I developed an abdominal hernia and had surgery for hernia repair. This made me even weaker specially at my legs. I have recovered but felt weak. I started my sessions at ALO Physiotherapy at the beginning of January, with the Vibra Machine combined with specific exercises. I have now recovered my body strength, particularly in the legs. I am now walking normally and without pain. I am delighted!


Great clinic with great people! I was so lucky to find this clinic and even more when I met Andre. He's a very talented therapist and a wonderful person who makes you feel comfortable every time. He helped me to resolve my back problems in few appointments and I will be always grateful to him! From my experience is the best clinic in London and I highly recommend them without any doubts!


One of the best physiotherapy centres in the world! The professionalism and knowledge of this centre amazed me.


I am so glad I found this clinic. Luigi has been amazing. After my 1st session I felt an improvement and now have ALOT more movement and significant reduction in pain. I couldn’t recommend this clinic & Luigi enough. So helpful and flexible whenever I have needed to amend appointments. Every one is fantastic. I will continue to come here for as long as I need.


Andre is the best physiotherapist I came across. As a dedicated martial arts practitioner, I regularly use his services. He has always managed to fix my various back and leg injuries. I would recommend Alo Physiotherapy to anyone who suffers from body pain.


Where do I begin? The journey has been too long with Andre Oliveira and ALO Clinic , as he helped me both physically and mentally to overcome an injury I had in both of my knees. A small injury , after following wrong treatment became chronic and I found myself unable to walk/stand/run and do the simplest things- the mental impact was worse. I was introduced to Andre by Eleftherios Pavlidis who runs Laertion in Athens. lefteris with his team were the first to accommodate the problem and told me what I need to do. As a Londoner, I was introduced to Andre and ALO Clinic, and the rest is history. Since February 2017 when I had the first session with Andre and he identified the biomechanic nature of the problem, along with the use of Tecar the results were visible after one month. Since then, along with personal effort and strengthening I did always guided by Andre, I the problem is restored and the pain is gone. I highly recommend ALO Physiotherapy Clinic , and Andre Oliveira for anyone who suffers from sport injuries , amateurs or professional top athletes.


Very professional staff and friendly environment. I felt a lot better after very first session. Appointment are easily available. I would definitely recommend this place


The care I received from ALO Physiotherapy was outstanding from the first session to the last. Sessions with Louise were informative as well as practical, allowing me to understand the context/logic behind treatment as well as tips to prevent future injuries. Louise was always readily available to answer my questions and the treatment process was collaborative rather than being prescriptive. Beyond the expertise of the team the quality of the equipment and facilities was incredibly high and aided my recovery significantly. I would recommend ALO Physiotherapy to anyone who requires physiotherapy treatment in the Marylebone area.

ALO is an excellent well-run clinic and Louise Hynes who looked after me is a superb physiotherapist. Louise is knowledgeable, skilled and very efficient at her job. My sore shoulder was sorted out in no time thanks to her. Thank you, Louise, and thank you ALO.

Julian Webber, Harley Street Endodontist.

ALO is an excellent well-run clinic and Louise Hynes who looked after me is a superb physiotherapist. Louise is knowledgeable, skilled and very efficient at her job. My sore shoulder was sorted out in no time thanks to her. Thank you, Louise, and thank you ALO.

Julian Webber, Harley Street Endodontist.

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