Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Benefits of Cupping for an Ankle Injury

The benefits of cupping have been incredible for me. It’s the only treatment that gave me immediate, massive improvement in my range of motion and decreased my pain. Now more than seven months into my ankle sprain recovery, my fairly traditional, Western medicine-based physical therapist uses cupping at least every two weeks.

Benefits of Cupping

What Is Cupping?

Cupping therapy is a traditional Chinese practice that has been used for thousands of years. Traditionally, jars or cups were rapidly filled with hot air and placed on the skin. As the air cooled, it created suction.

While you can get the traditional form of cupping, my physical therapist uses cups with a valve and a small hand pump so he can control the pressure and move the cups around as needed. No heat necessary. Here’s a great diagram of the cups and how they are used.

Benefits of Cupping for an Ankle Injury

Benefits of Cupping

It’s not just me who has felt the benefits. Research shows that cupping can reduce pain and improve range of motion. It may also speed recovery and improve healing by increasing blood flow and reducing swelling.

Cupping has been shown to improve chronic neck, shoulder, and low back pain. It may even decrease cellulite (whew, so glad to be heading off the ankle cellulite before it develops).

From Chinese weightlifters to Olympic U.S. swimmers to Major League Baseball pitchers, professional athletes are using the therapy to help them recover and heal injuries. Apparently it’s now all the rage with celebrities (nothing makes me want to stop doing it more than that little fact).

What Does It Feel Like?

The first time I ever had cupping I thought my skin was going to explode. I was imagining having to explain to the emergency room why I had a huge hole in my skin and what the muscle must look like underneath. Needless to say, this didn’t calm me very much.

Now it’s just any other day. It doesn’t bother me at all. I have complete trust that I won’t be turned into Swiss cheese. I’ve had the sensitive skin around my ankle cupped as well as the nerve-centered bottom of my feet (that one was less pleasant, especially when my PT started moving them to break up scar tissue and tissue adhesions without reducing any of the suction).

Once you get used to the tugging, it is easily tolerable. It feels a bit like when you put the vacuum tube on your hand – only it’s a bit more intense.

Why Are You Polka Dotted?

While it looks like you have been attacked by a massive octopus for a few days after, the bruises slowly fade as they heal. I use arnica gel twice a day after cupping, and my bruises are completely gone in less than a week. I have rocked the massive bruises to a wedding before, but no one seemed to notice (or were at least nice enough not to ask me).

Benefits of Cupping

Should You Try It?

If you have a lot of tightness or scar tissue, it might be a great thing to try. Be sure to go to a qualified practitioner. I highly recommend going to a physical therapist or someone else who really knows the body’s structure well and the tissues that may be at play with your injury. This isn’t a comfortable treatment, and having complete trust and confidence in the person performing your cupping is absolutely necessary.

Cupping has been a game-changer in my ankle recovery. I’m so glad I stuck it out through the first, slightly unnerving, session.

3 Responses

  1. I am an outpatient ortho PT in Boise ID. I am interested in cupping for foot and ankle rehab…. I recently had a patient who came to me for ankle sprain rehab during her Christmas break from collage. She had previously had a single cupping therapy session for the bruising at her previous PT at school. She said she felt a lot of relief after the cupping. She said they placed the cups over the bruised area in her lateral ankle/ leg. Your photo shows a similar placement.

    Do you use cupping to control the pain and stiffness from the bruising in ankle sprains?

    Is your cup placement directly over the bruised area?

    If you have any other resources that may assist me with learning about cupping for foot and ankle patients I would appreciate it. Thanks Gavin

    • Mandy says:

      Hi Gavin, Thanks for reaching out!

      My physical therapists have used cupping to increase my range of motion and reduce tension in the muscles/tendons in my leg and ankle. I typically have less pain after a session because one of the above issues was addressed. The cups typically follow the tendon/muscle that is injured. For me, the cups were placed along my peroneal tendon and peroneus muscles.

      I’ve had really great results from cupping both pre and post peroneal tendeon surgery (turns out my severe sprain was a partially torn tendon).

      I unfortunately cannot recall the name of the cupping certification course my therapists used. If you are interested I can get that info for you.

    • Gavin,
      I recommend checking out this website. They are very reputable and informative. My massage career has benefited from all of the knowledge I have gained from them.

Leave a Reply