You’ve heard of muscle memory, right? Did you know that can work against you when you’re trying to fix postural or structural alignment issues? Your muscles are creatures of habit – and they really like being where they’re used to being, even if it’s causing you pain. It takes time and consistency to retrain those muscles.

Massage can help! So can cupping therapy! 

Manual therapies like massage and cupping therapy speed the time it takes to retrain the body – by disrupting the previous patterns, releasing adhesions, and loosening up the tissues, those tissues then are more ready to respond to a new direction. 

Massage & chiropractic go hand in hand. Same with physical therapy. 

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That’s right – seven to ten days! How? Some pretty intense cupping therapy with Jeff at Renu. Intrigued? Here’s the story:

It was one of those things after getting back to life after flu + pneumonia… I tweaked my shoulder, the one which likes


Darker colors may appear from cupping therapy

to pop out of its socket anyway, and it felt weird for awhile. Then the pain started.  The pain seemed to be on my deltoid and triceps, and even in my lower arm, so I began cupping myself in those areas that evening and went to bed. I was awakened by intense pain long before my alarm was set to go off — the very same pain I experienced when I had injured the rotator cuff in the same arm 20ish years ago. That pain when the force of gravity pulls your shoulder as you’re lying down and creates agony when you desperately want sleep… those who have injured their rotator cuffs know exactly what I’m talking about… ugh.

I couldn’t believe this was happening. Again. After what seemed a very minor tweaking. I was very worried about how it would affect my ability to work my various jobs of Cupping Therapist, Fitness Instructor, and Accounting Instructor.

glass-cups-fire-cupping-therapy-renu-madisonI could barely move my arm that day; the slightest rotation or abduction was excruciating. I did some Googling and found that common areas of referral pain for three of the four rotator cuff muscles were exactly where I was experiencing pain down my arm. Even though I had already figured out it was my rotator cuff as the pain progressed… confirmation is always nice. I knew my shoulder needed some good bodywork – massage is great, but cupping is much, much more effective as it promotes healing in ways that just aren’t possible with compression. Cupping is great for reducing inflammation and swelling, drawing up the non-circulating stagnant blood and sticky proteins found in edema, bringing them up to the surface so that healthy circulation of blood and lymph can be restored to the injured area.

I was so very pleased that the one cupping client I’d had scheduled for that day had cancelled, and there was a bonus! Jeffsilicone-cupping-therapy-renu-madison had an opening so I could get some proper cupping and massage on all those rotator cuff muscles plus some great myofascial release work. It was intense. It felt different than the regular discomfort of really deep work; it felt like there were injured tissues. But we improved range of motion during that session on my first day of pain. The next day I visited my chiropractor and found that my clavicle, humerus, and scapula were all misaligned as well, and those all got fixed right up. Having the cupping done before the chiropractic adjustment was helpful to allow the muscles and tendons to move more easily during adjustment and accept the corrected state more readily. I began to use a scarf as a sling to keep my arm both pain-free and to minimize the possibility of further misalignment. Then the magic began to happen.


Cupping therapy – Chinese traditional medical method often leaves marks on the skin

After two to three days, I had noticeably improved range of motion. That was encouraging! By day five, I was probably 70% back to full range of motion. After one week, I was 95% there. I had one more cupping session one week after the first – it was much less painful, and resulted in much less discoloration. And that was all I needed – I was back to 100% in the next couple days.

It felt like magic – not quite as instantaneous as its usage in the 2010 version of The Karate Kid… but I was amazed! I had seen cupping therapy work this quickly on clients of mine, but I thought with the intensity of the pain, it would have taken longer. My chiropractor said recovery time is usually around six weeks for this type of injury. Six weeks! Seven to ten days is so much better than that. From just two cupping therapy sessions at Renu. 

Olga licensed massage cupping therapistExcellent and Affordable Massage and Bodywork


There are lots of massage and bodywork choices in Madison.  Why choose Renu?  I’d love to tell you all of the reasons that I think each massage and bodywork therapist at Renu is excellent, but I will let other clients do the talking:

  1. A recent client wrote on Google that the Couples Massage Package is an “absolutely wonderful experience!” We regularly get lots of positive feedback from couples about this package, such a treat and hard to find at other places. Three years ago, another Google user wrote that the Couples Massage Package “was truly amazing! So relaxing, and the massage therapists were exceptional. Would definitely recommend!” Keeping clients happy year after year is what we love to do.
  2. Affordable, consistent massagebodywork “the costs and knowledge of different techniques are what keeps me coming back,” Jeff licensed massage therapistsaid another satisfied client, who prefers Renu under its current ownership and management which has been in place since 2011. Renu strives to provide excellent, affordable massage bodywork.
  3. Pain Relief – a recurring theme is how many people are shocked that there is a path to healing from all kinds of conditions and previous injuries, and that this path was unknown by the medical community:
    • “After 4 years of daily pain, including sciatica, which resulted from a leg injury — not from my back, as I was told by medical professionals — she is helping me heal.”
    • “Great place! Highly recommend the cupping therapy if you have never tried it! I had a knee injury and Heidi got me back and moving pain-free very quickly.”
    • “I first visited Renu after dealing with some upper back pain for several weeks. Heidi suggested cupping therapy, which was exactly what I needed. My pain was completely gone after ONE session! It just doesn’t get much better than that, folks.”
    • “I’ve been working with Heidi, the owner, who does incredible work and has helped me cope when my doctors Magdalena neck massagecouldn’t.”
    • “I found the massage so helpful that I am going again this weekend to help with some of the pain I have left over in my left arm. I will continue to go in the future just for other future health benefits and to relax.”
    • “I have had chronic back pain and very stiff muscles since high school (more than 10 years ago) and I have heard about the cupping therapy. It is very different, but does it make a difference!

Each member of our team has excellent therapeutic skills and is a joy to work with. We invite you to find out who’s your favorite!

Katie licensed massage therapist facial massage

facial cupping therapyCupping therapy is by far my favorite modality to work with because it is so effective and has so many applications.  If you are already familiar with cupping therapy, it is important to note that the facial cupping techniques described here will not leave discoloration on the face, because of the techniques used in this protocol.  It should also be noted that facial cupping may be done therapeutically for TMJD, Bell’s Palsy or other more significant restrictions in the fascia of the face, and these therapeutic techniques might produce the discoloration that many have experienced with cupping therapy on other parts of the body.  Our focus today is on facial cupping for rejuvenation and to reduce wrinkles and puffiness – very much like getting a facial, but with cups instead!

Facial cupping uses negative pressure with small cups to eliminate the build up of wastes and fluids in the face and neck.  With cups specifically designed for the face, the facial tissue experiences a vacuum and lifting effect, resulting in lymphatic drainage, which reduces chronic puffiness to a great degree.  Once one side of the face is completed, there is a visible difference from just one treatment – the completed side looks more lifted and has that healthy glow.  It’s a wonderfully relaxing treatment that leaves you looking and feeling great at the end of the session!

Not only are you looking and feeling great, but you are also increasing circulation, which enhances both nutrient absorption as well as absorption of any topical treatments such as essential oils.  The muscles of the face often have quite a bit of tension – how many of you have had TMJ pain or a popping jaw?  Facial cupping reduces that tension and tightness, softening those muscles and any scar tissue, and filling out lines and wrinkles as well.  Facial cupping treatments are cumulative, especially when treatments are done once or twice per week, which is recommended to achieve lasting visible results.  And beyond the health benefits, the treatment simply feels great, whether you’ve ever had any noticeable tension in your facial muscles or not.  Everybody’s skin needs a little rejuvenation from time to time.  When was the last time you treated your face to some TLC? 

Another great result is the drainage of the sinuses during facial cupping.  Anyone who experiences any inflammation, infections, or other sinus congestion would also benefit from facial cupping, while simultaneously receiving the other aesthetic and health benefits mentioned above.  Combine that with some essential oil for the sinuses at the end of the treatment, and your sinuses will thank you!  Once again, it will likely take a series of treatments to see lasting results for sinus drainage, especially if the source of the recurring sinus infections or congestion is not addressed. 

Facial cupping requires specific training and should be performed by a Certified Cupping Therapist (CCT) who has been trained in this protocol.  There is an extensive network of nerves in the face, and care must be taken when performing this service.  There are several therapists at Renu who are both trained and certified to provide this service, and we’d love to work with you to achieve your facial rejuvenation!

Heidi Aschenbrenner, LMBT, CCT, BCTMB, and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork, Heidi massage bodyworker cupping therapistspecializing in Eastern bodywork therapies and the Eastern healing arts. Heidi and her team of therapists all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies and have all been trained in Eastern healing techniques and cupping therapy.  Renu offers an infrared sauna from Sunlighten Saunas for deeper healing and detoxification after your session. For more information on cupping therapy in general, please visit

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!  

Often in life it seems that returning back to basics can be the best plan.  Cupping therapy has been used by ancient indigenous tribes across several continents as well as by the ancient Egyptians and the ancient Chinese.  Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for thousands of years and still utilizes cupping therapy today as part of regular medical treatment for pain and disease. It has gained recent stardom from celebrities who have tried it, and was even talked about by Gwyneth Paltrow with Oprah about how amazing it feels.  So what is this cupping therapy?  cupping therapy

Cupping therapy uses suction to create negative pressure above the surface of muscular and epidermal tissues.  The result is that restrictions and adhesions in the muscles are more easily released than through compression techniques utilized in traditional massage and  bodywork therapies.  Cupping therapy can also reach more deeply into the tissues than can a therapist’s hands.  Blood flow is increased to the affected area, and blood vessels widen when the muscles relax, and the nervous system is also stimulated, which helps the body recover from pain.  

Therapists can achieve results much more quickly through cupping therapy than with traditional compression, and can quite often alleviate chronic, long-term pain quite rapidly, sometimes even in just a few sessions.  Cupping therapy is great for shoulder pain, low back, hip, or sciatica pain, or really any joint or fascial pain that you may be dealing with (knee, wrist, plantar fasciitis, and more).  Even numbness from nerve restrictions can be alleviated from cupping therapy.  

Blood and lymph might be stagnant in the areas of muscle restrictions (kind of like a traffic jam), along with a build up of waste products from the lack of oxygen in the restricted tissues, and those will all get pulled to the surface of the skin, so there may be some coloration after a cupping therapy session that will go away over the next several days to a week.  Don’t be alarmed!  It might look like a bruise but it most certainly is not – no capillaries get broken with cupping therapy.  Rather, fluids are being pulled through the restricted tissues so that they can then be moved by the circulatory and lymph systems – those wast products can then finally get processed where they belong.  

Cupping therapy is also utilized in conjunction with TCM to treat a variety of diseases, and it works very well with respiratory conditions.  Cups are placed along specific acupressure points to achieve specific results based on the TCM diagnosis.  So beyond working with your blood, lymph, and nervous systems, we can also work with your Qi and energetic meridians with cupping therapy (if your practitioner has been trained in TCM).  And that coloration we mentioned before?  Each type of color that surfaces means something different in TCM as to what is going on with the body. 

cupping therapy chinese medicineCupping therapy is widely performed by acupuncturists, and is becoming more commonly practiced by massage and bodywork therapists.  Look for a practitioner who has studied Asian Bodywork and/or Eastern medicine and who has received training in cupping therapy.  Contraindications do exist, application methods do matter, and it is important to select a practitioner who has been trained to treat you properly.