Featured image of post Cupping Therapy for Runners: Does It Really Work?

Cupping Therapy for Runners: Does It Really Work?

Discover the potential benefits of cupping therapy for runners. Learn how cupping can improve blood flow, enhance range of motion, and aid in injury prevention. Get practical tips on finding a qualified therapist and incorporating cupping into a comprehensive recovery plan.

Sign up for personalized coaching to prepare for your next race

Cupping Therapy for Runners: Does It Really Work?


Cupping therapy is an ancient practice that has gained renewed popularity in recent years, particularly among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. As a runner, you may have heard about the potential benefits of cupping for recovery, injury prevention, and performance enhancement. But does this alternative treatment really live up to the hype? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the science behind cupping therapy and its practical applications for runners.

First, let’s define cupping and understand its historical roots. Cupping involves the use of specialized cups, often made of glass, silicone, or bamboo, which are placed on the skin and used to create suction. This suction pulls the skin and underlying tissues upwards, increasing blood flow and promoting healing. The practice has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine and is now gaining traction in the Western world as a complementary therapy.

For runners, recovery is paramount. The high-impact nature of the sport can take a toll on your muscles, joints, and connective tissues, leading to soreness, inflammation, and even injury. Effective recovery strategies are essential for preventing overtraining, maintaining optimal performance, and reducing the risk of setbacks. This is where cupping therapy may play a valuable role.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy for Runners

One of the primary benefits of cupping for runners is its ability to improve blood flow and circulation. The suction created by the cups helps to draw blood to the treatment area, delivering oxygen and nutrients that can accelerate the healing process. This increased circulation can also help to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation, which are common concerns for runners after a challenging workout or race.

In addition to improved circulation, cupping has been shown to enhance range of motion and flexibility. By targeting the fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds and supports your muscles, cupping can help to release tension and improve overall mobility. This can be particularly beneficial for runners who struggle with tightness or restrictions in their muscles and joints, as it can help to prevent injury and improve running efficiency.

Cupping therapy has also been studied for its potential role in injury prevention and treatment. By addressing underlying muscle imbalances, adhesions, and areas of tension, cupping may help to reduce the risk of common running injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and IT band syndrome. For runners who are already dealing with an injury, cupping can be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan to alleviate pain, promote healing, and facilitate a safe return to running.

How Cupping Therapy Works

The suction created by cupping therapy works by lifting the skin and underlying tissues away from the body, creating a negative pressure that draws blood to the area. This increased blood flow helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients, while also promoting the removal of waste products and toxins. The suction can also help to release tension in the fascia, allowing for improved range of motion and flexibility.

The cups used in cupping therapy are typically made of glass, silicone, or bamboo, and they are placed on the skin and left in place for several minutes. During this time, the suction can create distinctive circular marks or bruises on the skin, which are a normal and expected part of the treatment. These marks are a sign that the therapy is working, as they indicate the increased blood flow and tissue mobilization.

Research on Cupping Therapy for Runners

While the practice of cupping has been around for centuries, the scientific research on its effectiveness for runners is still relatively new. However, the available studies have shown promising results.

A 2015 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that cupping therapy was effective in reducing muscle soreness and improving range of motion in athletes, including runners. The researchers concluded that cupping could be a valuable tool for enhancing recovery and reducing the risk of injury.

Another study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2017, looked at the effects of cupping on endurance performance. The researchers found that cupping therapy improved running economy, which means that runners were able to maintain the same pace with less effort. This suggests that cupping may have the potential to enhance running performance, in addition to its recovery benefits.

It’s important to note that while the research on cupping for runners is promising, more studies are needed to fully understand its long-term effects and optimal protocols. Additionally, the quality of the research can vary, and it’s crucial to work with a qualified and experienced cupping therapist to ensure safe and effective treatment.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

While cupping therapy is generally considered safe when performed by a trained professional, there are some potential risks and side effects to be aware of. The most common side effect is the appearance of circular bruises or marks on the skin, which can last for several days. These marks are a normal part of the treatment and are not a cause for concern.

In some cases, cupping can also cause temporary discomfort or a burning sensation during the treatment. This is usually mild and subsides quickly after the cups are removed. However, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding disorders or skin conditions, may be at a higher risk of adverse reactions and should consult with a healthcare provider before trying cupping therapy.

It’s important to work with a qualified and experienced cupping therapist to minimize the risk of any complications. They can assess your individual needs, tailor the treatment to your specific concerns, and monitor for any adverse reactions.

How to Choose a Qualified Cupping Therapist

When it comes to cupping therapy, it’s essential to choose a practitioner with the proper training and experience. Look for a therapist who is certified in cupping techniques, has a strong understanding of human anatomy and physiology, and has experience working with athletes and runners.

Here are some tips for finding a reputable cupping therapist:

  • Ask for referrals from your healthcare provider, physical therapist, or other runners you trust.
  • Check the therapist’s credentials and ensure they have received proper training in cupping techniques.
  • Look for a therapist who is licensed or certified in their state or province, as this ensures they have met certain educational and safety standards.
  • Ask about the therapist’s experience working with runners and their approach to treatment.
  • Consider scheduling a consultation to get a sense of their communication style and whether they are a good fit for your needs.

By taking the time to find a qualified and experienced cupping therapist, you can ensure that your treatment is safe, effective, and tailored to your specific needs as a runner.

Practical Tips for Runners

If you’re a runner interested in trying cupping therapy, there are a few practical tips to keep in mind:

Timing: The optimal timing for cupping therapy can vary, but many runners find it most beneficial to schedule a session a day or two after a hard workout or race. This allows the treatment to target any lingering soreness or inflammation.

Frequency: The frequency of cupping therapy can also vary depending on your individual needs and recovery goals. Some runners find that weekly or bi-weekly sessions are helpful, while others may only need occasional treatments.

Duration: A typical cupping session can last anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the number of areas being treated and the therapist’s approach.

Combining with other recovery strategies: Cupping therapy can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive recovery plan, but it should not be the only strategy. Make sure to also prioritize proper nutrition, hydration, sleep, and cross-training to support your overall health and performance.

By understanding the optimal timing, frequency, and duration of cupping therapy, as well as how it fits into your overall recovery plan, you can maximize the benefits of this alternative treatment and stay healthy and strong on the roads and trails.

Cupping as Part of a Comprehensive Recovery Plan

While cupping therapy can be a powerful tool for runners, it should not be viewed as a standalone solution for recovery and injury prevention. Instead, it should be considered as one component of a comprehensive approach that includes a variety of strategies.

In addition to cupping, a well-rounded recovery plan for runners should also include:

  • Proper nutrition and hydration to support muscle repair and recovery
  • Adequate sleep and rest to allow the body to fully recover
  • Cross-training and active recovery activities to maintain fitness while reducing impact
  • Complementary therapies such as massage, foam rolling, and stretching to address specific areas of tension or tightness
  • Strength training to build muscular endurance and resilience
  • Injury prevention strategies, such as proper form, gradual training progressions, and targeted exercises

By incorporating cupping therapy into a holistic recovery plan, runners can maximize their chances of staying healthy, preventing injuries, and performing at their best.


Cupping therapy has gained significant attention in the running community for its potential benefits in promoting recovery, reducing muscle soreness, and preventing injury. While the research on its effectiveness is still emerging, the available studies suggest that cupping can be a valuable tool for runners when used as part of a comprehensive recovery plan.

If you’re a runner interested in trying cupping therapy, it’s important to work with a qualified and experienced pract

Sign up for personalized coaching to prepare for your next race