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Cupping and Acute Low Back Pain

Posted on: March 31st, 2024 by Our Team

If you’ve ever tweaked your back moving furniture, stepped off a curb wrong, added a little too much weight to your barbell without properly warming up or even slept funny, you know how annoying acute low back pain can be. Acute low back pain just specifies that it recently happened and hasn’t been going on for long periods of time. The beauty of acute low back pain is that is usually goes away fairly quickly with proper activity modification and active recovery.

Physical therapy can help speed this process along and help you to progressively return to your prior level of function. Manual therapy can be especially helpful to help with symptom management and a tool I like to use is cupping. Cupping therapy is based on an ancient practice that uses suction cups on skin and over muscles to decompress the different tissue layers. This is thought to help increase blood flow, loosen muscle tension, mobilize fascia which can help improve mobility and help with pain. Cupping works to provide a new stimulus to injured area and can help give new input to the nervous system to aid in recovery.

The benefits of cupping:

  • Pain Relief: Cupping therapy has shown remarkable efficacy in providing relief from acute low back pain. By increasing blood circulation and releasing muscle tension, it helps alleviate pain and discomfort, offering patients much-needed respite from their symptoms.
  • Muscle Relaxation: Tight muscles are often a primary contributor to low back pain. Cupping therapy targets these tense muscles, promoting relaxation and flexibility. This not only reduces pain but also enhances the range of motion, allowing individuals to move more freely without aggravating their condition.
  • Improved Circulation: Poor blood circulation can exacerbate low back pain by depriving tissues of oxygen and nutrients necessary for healing. Cupping therapy stimulates circulation, ensuring that affected tissues receive the vital resources they need to recover effectively.
  • Reduction of Inflammation: Inflammation is a common culprit behind low back pain, leading to swelling and discomfort. Cupping therapy has anti-inflammatory properties that help mitigate inflammation, providing relief and facilitating the healing process.
  • Stress Reduction: Chronic low back pain can take a toll on mental well-being, leading to increased stress and anxiety. Cupping therapy induces a deep sense of relaxation, reducing stress levels and promoting overall mental and emotional wellness.

Moreover, cupping therapy is non-invasive and generally well-tolerated, making it a suitable option for individuals seeking natural and drug-free pain relief.

For acute low back pain, only a few cups are needed to provide this stimulus. These cups are applied to various places on your back based on where you’re having symptoms and left on anywhere from 3-10 minutes. I will often then have my patients perform various stretches with the cups on to provide more of a tissue mobilization. The cups are then removed and you may be left with red circle suction marks and sometimes some bruising depending how your skin bruises.

As research continues to unveil the intricacies of cupping therapy, its integration into mainstream physical therapy practices holds immense promise for enhancing patient outcomes and restoring quality of life for those grappling with acute low back pain and other injuries.

If you’re having low back pain, contact us to set up a physical therapy evaluation to see if cupping could be a helpful option for you.

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