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Cupping Marks Aren’t Bruises.

“It’s not a bruise.” 

Best read with an Arnold Schwarzenegger voice from 90’s movie Kindergarten Cop.  I may have just dated myself there, especially if you don’t get the reference . . .

It was a big win for traditional Chinese medicine when Michael Phelps rocked cupping marks during the 2016 Olympics.  These strange purple circles sparked curiosity in the masses and started a lasting conversation about the health benefits of cupping.  No longer do cupping marks receive concerned glares from onlookers. Now people where them with pride.  Thanks, Phelps, we owe you one!

However, you still might be wondering, what exactly is it, what it does and why it isn’t called a bruise?

It’s no wonder these marks trigger curiosity, there is nothing in the western paradigm that would leave such a mark and have therapeutic benefits.  Because, let’s be real, they look an awful lot like a terrible bruise you get when some sort of trauma happens. Looks can be deceiving!  They are cupping marks. (I’ll back up this statement below!) Cupping has been part of routine care in the practice of Chinese medicine (and other traditions) for thousands of years.  Yes, thousands.  Those who grew up with cupping know that the mark is meaningful and an indication that some sort of pathogens or metabolic waste products have been drawn to the surface. It is a mark of success!  These marks shouldn’t be painful like most bruises. Cupping should be a comfortable and satisfying experience.  It should not feel like abuse, because, well, it absolutely isn’t.

I like to think of cupping like a vacuum, creating space and drawing stuck things to the surface. If your muscles are chronically tight in an area, the muscle contraction restricts blood vessels, hence restricting blood flow. This slowing of flow thickens the blood through platelet activity. This restriction also reduces the healthy blood flow to surrounding areas and as a result these areas are not getting properly nourished. Not sure about you, but I am not properly fed I become pretty painful to be around.  You can think of it like a slow flowing creek, and all that accumulates.  Cupping opens up the area and draws stagnant blood and toxins through the muscles to restore blood flow. This healthy blood brings phagocytic activity to the area.  Phagocytes are part of the immune system that clean house.  They engulf and absorb bacteria and other small cells and particles that no longer serve us. Our bodies are pretty rad.

As promised here are five solid reasons cupping marks aren’t bruises:

  • Not all cupping produces a mark! This is because pathogens and unwanted factors aren’t present to be pulled out.
  • By definition, a bruise occurs as a result of a blow that does not break the skin, or essentially bleeding in the soft tissue.
  • A bruise changes color, first to blue as a red pigment of hemoglobin lose its oxygen and then to brown or yellow as the hemoglobin to broken down and reabsorbed. This is different from the fading and resolution of cupping marks, which is a progressive fading of the original hue without different color transitions.
  • When we have a bruise, it is tender to the touch from the trauma. After cupping there is no accompanying tenderness.
  • Cupping can help clear a bruise. A bruise is essentially stagnant blood. Cupping can help disperse the stagnant blood and reduce healing times!

If you want to read more on cupping check out this article:


Or check out the description of cupping on our website:


Healing from the inside out!

With Love from the Quill Ladies!

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