We all stayed up late watching the Olympics. You heard about the winners, the upsets and the amazing feats of physical athleticism, all while discussing what wine might pair with your meal. In the back of the house, the conversation can get heated just like the hot kitchen temperature. What is the hottest talk about these days? What are those hickey-like circles on the athletes?
Athletes work their bodies non-stop, almost like chefs in the kitchen and servers on the floor. It is a physical world we live in and our jobs require us to maintain some level of fitness in order to get through the day unscathed and to prevent injuries. We often think of the athletes as the ones needing all that treatment, but your day to day job can lead to a lot of overuse and strain that might need some TLC. Myofascial Decompression (MFD), otherwise known in Traditional Chinese Medicine as cupping is all the rage right now. It is going viral on social media. It is on practically every news channel. It leaves its mark so that it shows that you were the lucky recipient of this new hottest technique. So what is it exactly and why would you were those bruises so proudly?
TCM focuses on ‘chi’ or energy pathways (meridians) in the body. Cupping is used to help the body and organ systems operate and feel better by unblocking stagnant chi along the meridians. An area of stagnation along the meridian correlates with some sort of organ or system dysfunction. So, the darker the color under the cup, the better as that means it is unblocking and moving energy into that area of dysfunction to help heal it.
MFD has turned TCM into a western form of medicine. Cupping incorporates this type of treatment, but has also focused on the more anatomical aspects of the human body.
MFD targets mechanical connective tissue change, trigger points, myofascial tissue, scars and postural issues. It also addresses movements patterns and neuromuscular re-education. The goals of MFD is to release soft tissues, reorganize the soft tissues, restore movement, improve circulation and reduce your perception of pain.
MFD involves the use of cups (glass, silicone or plastic), a hand held pneumatic pump (TCM uses a flame/heat/lighter), and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (buffalo horn, metal, or plastic). The cups are placed on the skin with a negative pressure which allows them to pull up on the underlying skin. This is the ‘decompressive’ nature of the treatment as it creates a lift and reduces the pressure of the tight overlying tissues. Superficial blood vessels might break and you are drawing fluids to the area, hence the ‘bruising’ effect. It is not always necessary however as it depends on the assessment of what you need and the application of the cups.
There are multiple types of application for MFD. Your physical therapist can assess your condition and trial the technique on you. The findings of your evaluation will determine what type of application would work best.
After the treatment with the cups, the treatment concludes with flushing the area of the excess fluids using instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. Icing is also refrained for up to 2 hours after receiving this type of treatment.