Athletes complain of cramps, tense muscles, shin splints and painful motion. There is greater need of blood in these areas and cupping is one of the best ways of addressing this need.

Is the lack of hard evidence enough to dismiss the technique of cupping for athletes and place it among numerous tools that offer nothing but placebo effect? Is the absence of proof the proof of absence? A few simple laws of physics indicate this is not so.

Using Bernoulli’s principle and Poiseuille’s Law, decompression techniques result in pressure reduction within the tissues, causing an increase in the velocity of blood within the capillaries. There is an increase distribution of blood carrying oxygen, glucose and other nutrients, minerals and immunoglobulins. According to Bernoulli’s Equation, diminished pressure results in increased velocity.

Movement is the essence of life. Any method that increases movement, or the velocity of blood, helps in the nourishment of muscle, ligaments, nerves, connective tissues, tendons and bone.

Most athletes have specific areas of aches and pains due to injuries or overuse. Swimmers have shoulder and latissimus dorsi pain. Basketball players and baseball players have hamstring, thigh, and arm pain. Runners have plantar fasciitis and leg cramps. Extremely strenuous activities like football, skiing, boxing, gymnastics and marathons result in rapid production of lactic acid and other toxic metabolites.

Athletes complain of cramps, tense muscles, shin splints and painful motion. There is greater need of blood in these areas and cupping is one of the best ways of addressing this need.

In inflamed areas, where there is slowing movement of lymph and blood due to congestion, cupping together with anti-inflammatories can help ease the pain. Extreme exertion results in massive fluid loss, making blood more viscous. According to Poiseuille’s Law, increasing fluid intake reduces the viscosity of blood, to help increase its velocity. Adding electrolytes to the fluid prevents water intoxication.

What is Cupping for Athletes?

SportsCupping is a type of cupping for athletes. It is the application of cupping methods to an athlete with the purpose of enhancing their preparation for, performance during and recovery from the physical demands of training and competition.

According to anecdotal evidence, SportsCupping allows the athlete to train longer and at higher levels. There is also reduction of strain and discomfort during training and diminution of muscular and tendinous injuries. Furthermore, the increase in circulation during treatment accelerates healing of acute injuries and reduces scar tissue. This helps prevent chronic conditions.

Methods Used During SportsCupping

Three primary cupping methods used on athletes include a combination derived from stationary, massage and dynamic cupping. Which protocol used is dependent on the needs of the individual athlete and whether occurring pre- or post-event.


Cupping used before an event prepares the athlete for the inevitable need for more oxygen, sugar proteins, and fats that extreme exertion requires.

The athlete’s brain is alert to danger because neurons are fed by nutrients carried by the increased circulation. The eyes, ears and nose, and the Pacinian corpuscles enhance vision, hearing, smell, and feel that muscles need to achieve success and avoid disasters like colliding with other athletes or objects.


Cupping used post-event allows the body to expel most of the toxic metabolic products created during the competition. The improved circulation that results from cupping helps repair damaged tissues.

Specific SportsCupping Techniques

• Intermittent(flash): sans movement, use a pumping action to stimulate blood flow

• Cross fiber friction: perpendicular movement to the muscle fiber and fascia
• Vibrational: muscle attachments cup placement of a joint and gently vibrate the joint in all directions at low amplitude (centimeter displacements) and high frequency (three times per second).
• Stripping: smooth muscle fiber directional gliding of cups

• Joint mobilization (dynamic cupping): direct cup placement of joint or muscle attachments, assist the joint through all normal ranges (flexion, extension, rotation, circumduction) at low frequency(three to five seconds)—PROM, AROM and RROM—depending on need.
• Lymph drainage: gentle suction and slow glide of the cup along natural lymphatic watershed

Adjust accordingly based on phase of sports activity:

• Training/maintenance (conditioning): all SportsCupping techniques
• Pre-event (off-site): all SportsCupping techniques
• Pre-event warm-up (on or off-site): 1. Quick-flex muscle sports (such as sprinting, soccer, tennis): intermittent, lymphatic drainage; 2. Slow-flex muscle sports (such as long-distance running): all SportsCupping techniques

• Intra-event: 1. Quick-flex muscle sports (such as sprinting, soccer or tennis) use intermittent, lymphatic drainage; 2. Slow-flex muscle sports (such as long-distance running) use all SportsCupping techniques
•Post-event (on-site or off-site within one hour of the event): use lymphatic stimulation
•Post-event (off-site within 24 hours of the event): all SportsCupping techniques
•Rehabilitation (from injury or overtraining): all SportsCupping techniques

In Summary

Cupping creates a pressure-reducing vacuum in swollen and inflamed tissues, thus speeding the velocity of blood. In athletes who suffer from strains, cramps, or tense muscles and fascia, the resulting improvement in circulation feeds cells, thus promoting and enhancing repair at the same time the dead cellular debris and toxic products of metabolism, like lactic acid, ammonia urea and creatinine, are taken away to the organs of excretion.

With cupping, athletes can look forward to improved performance, greater energy, range of motion, reduction of pain and faster recovery from competition, and thus be ready to compete another day.

Here in Chapel Street, Sligo, I treat patients with cupping.

The acupuncture clinic serves the following areas in Sligo:

Rosses Point, Strandhill, Knocknahur,Sligo city, South Sligo, West Sligo, Tonaphubble, Ballycoolin, Ballisodare, Ballinode, Cloonacool, Colloney, Coolaney, Carney, Ballymote, Pearse Road, Castle Street, O’Connell street, Maugheraboy, Grange, Cliffoney, Riverstown, Screen, Riverstown, Keash, Calry, Adelaide street, Wine Street, Abbey Street, Market Street

Contact us at or on 086 8247236