The Benefits Of Cupping For Athletes


Athletes are no strangers to pain. It’s all a part of the process when you’re training hard. But just because you’re used to pain, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it — or that you have to just grin and bear it. Whether you’re dealing with deep, pulsating knee pain, a quad strain, or recurrent muscle knots, musculoskeletal issues can seriously hinder your physical performance. Fortunately, cupping can help. The benefits of cupping for athletes can be felt from the inside out. But how exactly can cupping help you?

Cupping stimulates blood flow to tired, strained muscles. This not only alleviates pain and inflammation but also encourages healthy muscle function. Cupping also supports digestion and sleep, while also helping you manage stress.

Cupping supports muscle function and recovery

The biggest advantage that cupping has to offer athletes is improved muscle function. Cupping is great for boosting circulation. Bringing more oxygen and red blood cells to muscles that are subjected to repetitive use can help ease pain and reduce inflammation. The body also relies on these materials to make necessary repairs — repairing a torn muscle, for instance. 

The better your muscles recover after exercise, the better you’ll feel, and the better your muscles will perform in the future. In a study, martial arts athletes who were given cupping therapy experienced less inflammation, not only during their recovery period post-exercise but also during the exercise itself. Reducing inflammation is key to improving physical performance.

If you’re a serious athlete, then you’re constantly putting strain on your body. Think of it as applying non-stop pressure. If you don’t find a way to relieve that pressure, then it’s just going to build and build until something gives. The result won’t be pretty! But cupping acts as a release valve, supporting your body, and soothing stiff, strained muscles.

Cupping is ideal for addressing muscle stiffness and imbalances. We use cupping (in many cases in tandem with other therapies, like corrective exercise therapy or electro-acupuncture) to soothe overworked muscles and to bring underperforming muscles back into work. By rebalancing your muscle groups, cupping can help restore healthy muscle function so you can get the most out of your training sessions. 

Cupping helps athletes overcome their pain

When you step wrong and sprain your ankle, you don’t actually feel pain in your ankle. When you strain your rotator cuff playing golf or tennis, it’s not really your shoulder that hurts. Pain is felt in the brain. That doesn’t mean the pain is all in your mind and should be ignored. Rather, it means we can use natural therapies like cupping (and acupuncture and dry needling, too) to change the way your body reacts to pain. 

Cupping stimulates small nerves in your muscles. This triggers the release of endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters that act as the body’s all-natural pain relievers. Endorphins latch onto the opioid receptors in the brain, altering the way we perceive pain. With cupping, we can use endorphins to our advantage and actually raise our pain threshold. 

Endorphins aren’t the only neurotransmitters that cupping can modulate, though. Cupping has also shown that it exerts some control over dopamine and serotonin. These two happy hormones enhance our mood and sense of well-being and make it much easier to cope with pain naturally. 


Cupping fights stress, both mental and physical

Overall, cupping can help you feel better both physically and mentally, and when you can relax your muscles and enjoy your workouts without pain, this goes a long way toward reducing your stress load. Because let’s face it. No matter how much you love your sport, being an athlete is still tough. Managing your stress levels is paramount. 

We recommend cupping to many of our patients purely for its mood-enhancing and stress-busting benefits. Cupping’s ability to reduce stress is particularly beneficial for athletes, who are often under tremendous mental and physical pressure. 

All too often, when we’re feeling stressed, we transfer that anxiety to our muscles. We tense up, and this sets us up for musculoskeletal dysfunction and, consequently, injury. This is risky enough for the average active person, but if you’re an athlete, your risk of injury is amplified

If you’ve had cupping in the past, you know how relaxing it is. Cupping helps your muscles release all of that pent-up tension, and the physical act of alleviating that muscular tension helps your mind ease up, too. Whether you’re looking for ways to cope with the physical stress of training or the mental stress of performing, cupping can help. 

Cupping supports overall wellness

Due to the tremendous mental and physical strain that athletes are under, many of them struggle with parasympathetic nervous system dysfunction. This branch of the nervous system is in charge of the “rest and digest” response, rather than the “fight or flight” response, which is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system. 

Because athletes are constantly pushing their sympathetic nervous systems into overdrive, it becomes difficult for them to calm down again. It’s not uncommon for many athletes to struggle with digestive issues, bowel troubles, and sleep problems as a result. 

Fortunately, cupping helps bring both branches of the nervous system back into balance, soothing the sympathetic nervous system, and activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The result? Well, less stress, for one thing! But also improved metabolism and better digestion. 

Cupping doesn’t just stimulate the muscle groups you use to train, it also stimulates the muscles in your digestive tract, making them more efficient, so you get the most out of the foods you eat, and stay regular. By triggering the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system, cupping can also make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Contact Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture today

Cupping has so many advantages to offer, and athletes aren’t the only ones who can reap its benefits. 

If you’d like to learn more about cupping and how it can help boost your athletic performance and help you overcome past injuries, contact us today and our friendly staff will help you book an appointment

We know that all of our patients are unique. So, from your very first visit, we will listen to your concerns and goals and help you come up with a treatment strategy that allows you to meet them. 

At Lycoming Orthopedic & Sports Acupuncture, we’re excited to assist you as you embark on your health journey!

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