Athlete During 'Cupping' Treatment

Athlete During 'Cupping' Treatment

Myofascial Decompression Therapy (Cupping)

At the 2016 Summer Olympics, Michael Phelps added to the collection of medals that make him "the most decorated Olympian of all time." But the "decorations" that generated attention were the  marks on his back, shoulders and arms - cupping 'bruises.'  The media and public also became fascinated by the circles of discoloration on the skin from a therapeutic treatment thousands of years old.

These welts are the result of cupping, a technique dating back to ancient Greece (making it an appropriate topic during the Olympics) . It is common practice in traditional Chinese medicine, but the two techniques are different.  #1 - Dry cupping involves the use of negative pressure to create a suctioning effect without any skin perforation.  #1 - Wet cupping also uses skin suctioning, but with added superficial skin incisions to induce bleeding.

The Cups typically are left on the skin for 5-20 minutes, creating a circular-shaped ecchymosis, which may last for days or weeks - depending on the individuals tolerance, and response to the treatment. Increasing the time and/or pressure exacerbates the ecchymosis.2

Thanks to US Swimming  therapists, an ancient technique seemed new again. And, in a cycle that's all too familiar, viewers became intrigued by some "sanctioned," performance enhancer that  has never-been-seen-before.  Worldwide exposure on changes with the athletes who experiment with different techniques in their preparation. In 2008, it was multicolored kinesiology tape, the Rorschach-like patterns adorning the bodies of volleyball, basketball, and track athletes - think Misty May-Trainor, who has sworn by the 'injury-prevention properties' for years. Now in 2016, it's the dark circles evident of recent cupping treatments.

Since the top athletes in the world are using these treatments, credibility is inherent or implied, right?

Maybe not always.

Injury preventing and performance enhancing approaches that rapidly gain widespread popularity will always outpace scientific research. It takes years to systematically investigate the, physiological (as well as psychological) effects of various stimuli impacted with each of these treatments.  Without strong scientific methodology, data collection, and analysis to determine if these interventions are appropriate, how they should be used, and how to expand and certify the people administering the activities is difficult. 

Olympic athletes might include cupping as part of their extensive physical and mental maintenance to train and compete at maximum capacity, but an underlying theme of the "Choosing -Treatments wisely" should be used by anyone trying the benefit of active therapy over passive treatments.  As therapists, we want to continue to uphold the value of well-established and rigorously investigated interventions, well-trained, certified practitioners in the face of the latest fascination in sports medicine.


Dynamic Taping - In a Nutshell

Dynamic Tape is a revolution in taping.

About the tape itself:

  • Dynamic Tape is composed of a synthetic, stretch nylon & lycra cloth compared to that of Kinesiology tapes that are predominantly cotton.
  • Dynamic Tape is designed to stretch in all direction (4-way stretch) while Kinesiology tapes are designed to stretch longitudinally (2-way stretch)
  • Dynamic Tape has many times the resistance and recoil, likened to a bungee cord. Kinesiology tapes have a very gentle recoil, designed to lift the skin.
  • Dynamic Tape can stretch to over 200% of its resting length with no restrictive end point. Kinesiology tapes typically stretch 140% – 180% with a defined rigid end point where the tape will stretch no more. This prevents the tape from being applied with the body part in a shortened position while maintaining full range.
  • Dynamic Tape is designed to work mechanically, designed to alter movement patterns while absorbing load and re-injecting that energy back into movement, all without limiting range of motion. Kinesiology tapes are designed to work neurophysiologically, meaning they interface with the skin to alter pain perception, address lymphatic drainage, and encourage changes in neuromuscular function.


"Called Bio-Mechanical Tape"

Dynamic Taping is about managing load, managing movement patterns, managing function by introducing force into the system and based on sound clinical reasoning.  Biomechanics is defined as “the study of the mechanical laws relating to the movement or structure of living organisms.” Dynamic Tape is an externally applied load absorbing product that affects the work of muscles and motion of joints. As mentioned, kinesiology tapes are designed to lift the skin to create space in order to take pressure off pain sensitive structures, increase circulation, or to affect muscle activity via the input into the nervous system through the skin. Dynamic Tape doesn’t fit that category but it does fit with the concepts of Biomechanics. In fact, Dynamic Taping has more in common with traditional, rigid athletic tapes, Mulligan and McConnell taping than it does with kinesiology taping.

Mechanical Mechanism

A focus on movement, function, and load allows us to get effective results. Dynamic Tape has been specifically developed to provide strong mechanical assistance externally to:

  • Reduce the work on injured tissues
  • Assist weak muscles
  • Improve movement patterns
  • Augment stability via force closure mechanism
  • Change position to improve the muscle’s capacity to generate force (length-tension relationship or modifying lever arms.

All this while still allowing full range of motion even when performing complex, multi-planar movements like those required in sport or work. Of course, you will see many taping applications on athletes that have no possibility of having a mechanical effect. Certain criteria must be fulfilled and obtaining a mechanical effect on some parts of the body is much harder than others. Correct application is essential.

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Psoas Fascial Stretch

Runners, Rugby players...trail runners, tennis players, etc.


Fascial Stretch Therapy changes the game!


I first became aware of Fascial Stretch Therapy  when I was in massage school. I did not look too deep into it at the time because I was so focused on finishing and just getting my new career started, so it quickly was forgotten. Then graduated and went full throttle into my new career as a sports massage therapist. My clientele grew rapidly and I put all of my effort into building my practice.

Fascial Stretch Therapy came back to me early last year when one of my regular clients returned from a vacation in Arizona, and mentioned that she received the treatment from a personal trainer down there. Then one of my long time colleges said to me “It is my new favorite thing!”, and I definitely heard that loud and clear because I always want to give my clients the best treatment possible, and believe in keeping up with new advances in my industry. I began researching it, found out where the workshops are, and booked a session for myself to see what it was all about. Six months later, and I was in Tempe, AZ taking the Level 1 certification course at the Stretch to Win Institute.

4 months after that I took the Level 2 course, and will complete Level 3 in October, which now makes me a Specialist. It has been a game changer for my practice. I still perform massage therapy when it is necessary, and the better tool for what is needed, but I would say around 75% of the clientele I have built over my career have began getting fascial stretch therapy treatments instead, or in combination with massage.

Fascial Stretch Therapy Explained
First off, this is not myofascial release. I feel the need to say that because many people think that is what I am talking about when I first mention it. Fascial Stretch Therapy is an assisted stretching program that his been thoroughly researched and designed by some of the top professionals in the industry. It is performed on a treatment table, using stabilization straps to hold limbs in place, giving the therapist better control and leverage when performing the stretches. The client feels more comfortable and is able to relax easier by not feeling like they are going to roll off the table.

There is no real way to fully describe the type of stretching you will receive without actually experiencing it. Many of my clients describe it as “yoga on crack”. Your body will be moved and stretched in ways that you just can not do on your own, with areas targeted for release that you likely have never felt before, or even realized how tight you were there. It works deep into the joint capsules of your body (almost 50% of our flexibility is locked up in our joints)…areas a therapist can’t reach with their hands, or with other methods of manual therapy.

Traction is a major component of the treatment. The therapist will apply gentle traction to the joint being targeted, opening up the joint and creating space for increased range of motion before taking the limb through the movement pattern, paying attention to the fascia restrictions that may need to be addressed. It is pretty pain free for the client, although some areas can be intense or uncomfortable if it is really restricted. The therapist will work slow through these areas and stay within your comfort zone.

Post-treatment clients tend to notice changes immediately once they get off of the table. A feeling of “lightness” and being more open is a typical description. Better posture without trying. Having them move around or do some stretches they notice more free mobility. It even makes you taller because it decompresses and creates space between all of your joints. My personal experience from my first day in my Level 1 class – I had one side of my body worked on – my right hip and leg. I got off of the table and performed a standard squat and I felt my right side drop inches lower than the other side that did not receive treatment. I was completely lopsided because only the one side had been worked on, but I was amazed at the changes that can be made in just one treatment session. This feedback from my clients is common, and I expect to hear those comments now. Clients have actually cried on my table after feeling release in areas of their body that they have not felt in over a decade, when they had already tried everything else and thought they just had to live with the pain.

Who Gets Fascial Stretch Therapy?
FST is still pretty unknown to most of the general public, although it is growing rapidly throughout the country, and the world. Professional teams and athletes have been using it for years as part of their treatment programs. The Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders all have FST therapists as part of their staff. The 2015 USA Women’s World Champion Soccer Team had an FST therapist as well. All over the country teams and pro athletes from all sports are starting to hire FST therapists (if they haven’t already) because of how beneficial the treatment is.

It is not just a treatment for athletes though, it benefits people of all ages and activity levels. We lose 10% of our flexibility for every 10 years that we age unless we actively work at maintaining it. My desk workers LOVE this treatment because of how immobile their bodies have become from sitting hunched over all day. There are new discoveries everyday in the continued research of fascia, and how treatment that targets this soft tissue component of our body positively affects us. There are just too many benefits to list!

Some Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy:

  • Reduce and help prevent the risk of injury
  • Improved posture and muscle function, which allows your body to move more freely
  • Improve/Increase circulation, flexibility and range of motion
  • Reduce or eliminate pain and soreness
  • Promote development of body awareness, and increase balance and symmetry in the body
  • Enhance physical fitness and performance, and helps to reach fitness goals
  • Improved Recovery and Sleep

If you live in the Palo Alto, CA area, and are interested in learning more about this amazing treatment you can check us out, and see about making an appointment.