Abdominal Cupping Therapy

By Heidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, NCBTM, Member AOBTA

Cupping therapy is a highly effective and under utilized therapeutic technique.  It can be used to treat a variety of issues – from pain in the joints, muscles, or any other part of the fascia to releasing knots and tissues in a relaxing way, similar to massage.  We discussed its general benefits in April’s issue, and this month we’ll discuss the benefits of abdominal cupping therapy specifically.  

Our abdominal region is home to a variety of areas that directly affect our daily health, and it also tends to be our core emotional center, in need of both physical and emotional release.  Within the abdominal cavity we’ve got a variety of muscles that connect the pelvis to the spine, the rib cage to the pelvis, as well as the diaphragm, then we’ve got our digestive organs, our reproductive organs, and the second and third chakras.  That’s a lot going on!  It’s no small wonder that so many individuals are impacted by any one or a combination of the following:  menstrual problems, digestive issues, heartburn, hip pain, abdominal pain or lumbar (low back) pain.  Many people consume artificial hormones, antacids, laxatives, anti-diarrheal medicines, muscle relaxants and/or anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve symptoms and go about their normal activities.  When I used to travel frequently as a public accountant, I always had an ample supply of most of the above items in my travel bag, and I thought that was normal!  Now I know better.  

How can abdominal cupping help?  For one, most of us could greatly benefit from some abdominal massage, which isn’t part of the standard full body routine in the U.S.  Most people have tightness in their diaphragms and their iliopsoas (hip flexor) muscles, and those muscles rarely ever get worked on during massage sessions unless specifically requested.  Cupping therapy generally goes deeper than massage does and can also be used either as a substitute for massage (which we call massage cupping), or the cups can be placed in specific places to get a deeper release for certain tender spots in the fascia or on particular acupoints (points along meridians in Traditional Chines Medicine) to achieve relief through balance in your meridians, qi, and blood.  Some conditions that can be improved through cupping specific acupoints include lumbar pain and fatigue, dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (missed periods), diarrhea, abdominal distention and/or pain, gastritis, spasms of the diaphragm, and really any general abdominal pain or discomfort.  

Anyone who consumes processed foods, sugar, dairy, chocolate, caffeine, soft drinks, or alcohol  will likely have some mucus build up within the intestinal walls and could benefit from abdominal massage and detoxification.  Cupping therapy on the abdomen is great for this!  And an added benefit – emotional issues that have been buried there for years may also begin to be released.  It’s no secret that buried emotions and stress directly impact our health, and many practitioners believe the belly holds all kinds of unprocessed emotions, contributing to all manner of pain throughout the body.  It’s no coincidence that we refer to our abdominal region as our “core” or consult our “gut instincts” – we actually do store emotions in those tissues, and they need to be released just like the knots in the muscles or the excess mucus in the intestines.  Cupping helps rid the body of these toxins and get things moving through the various systems that were intended to filter out what many of us continue to carry around with us every day. 

Curious?  Next time you’re in for a massage, try a little abdominal work and see what you think.  Then if you’d like to explore it further or work a little deeper, maybe give the cupping therapy from a qualified professional a try.  I think it feels great!