CUPPING THERAPY (MFD)
What is it and why do we use it?:
Myofascial Decompression can be useful in the treatment of chronic overuse injuries such as bursitis, tendonitis, tendonosis, and other myofascial pain syndromes (low back, mid back, neck pain, elbow pain, shoulder pain etc.)
Myofascial Decompression (MFD), otherwise known as Cupping, is a form of soft tissue work where a pneumatic pump is used, along with plastic vacuum cups and placed on the skin to release the fascia and muscle tissue underneath. Cupping has been used in many traditional cultures for thousands of years, including ancient Chinese medicine, early Egyptians, Native Americans, and others. Ancient cultures used hollowed-out animal horns, bones, bamboo, nuts, seashells, gourds, or iron and glass to achieve desired results.
The traditional way of using Cupping is following the meridian lines in the body. The cups are placed along these particular lines to cause change within the body (either in tissue or targeted to specific organs) by unblocking Qi. In contrast, MFD is built on these principles, but used specifically to treat the fascia and muscles following fascial lines across the body. Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance to a spider's web or a sweater. It is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as all our internal organs including heart, lunges, brain, and spinal cord. It is the 3D “glue” that holds everything together. MFD is used in conjunction with movement of the body or movement of the cups during treatment to effectively break down adhesions or scar tissue in the fascia.
Most manual therapy techniques utilized in physical therapy are compressive in nature (soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release, joint mobilization, Graston® etc.) MFD works in the decompression of adhesions; reducing inhibitions of fluids and nutrient exchange. It is effective in decreasing stiffness and pain, improving tissue health and increasing mobility. It has been used to:
- Reduce scar tissue formation following inflammation or trauma
- Release trigger points and decrease tightness in a muscle and the surrounding fascia
- Decrease myofascial dysfunction, break up adhesions/scar tissue already present in an area of the body
- Increase blood flow to a slow healing muscle, tendon or ligament
The most challenging part of myofascial decompression (MFD) is the bruise marks. Almost every patient is left with circular marks from the negative pressure of the cups. These marks are normal, non-painful and can last anywhere between 2 days to 1 week, sometimes even longer. The coloring of the marks can sometime be an indication of the health of the tissue underneath. Darker marks mean more tissue stagnation (lack of blood flow) and increased build up of adhesion/ scar tissue.
It also may be effective with some post-surgical patients who develop soft tissue restrictions as a result of surgical trauma causing adhesions around the surgical site and around the surgical scar.
MFD isn’t the best treatment for every patient, but there can be some significant benefits which are difficult to achieve with other manual therapy techniques. It is just one more “tool in the toolbox” that our therapists use to assist our patients, as we constantly search out and learn new techniques to provide the best care possible.