You might have first heard about cupping during the Olympics in Rio, right after everyone noticed the red marks on Michael Phelps shoulders and back. Çupping has been a pain remedy for the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese long before the 2016 Olympics. Scriptures date it back as far as 1500BC.

Likewise you may have also noticed colored tape on the bodies of athletes in several sports. These are Kinesio taping and cross taping methods in use.

Cupping soothes pain and tension in the muscles. While Kinesio taping and cross taping is used support, stimulate or relax muscles underlying the skin they are applied to.

We spoke with Dr. Barbara Baroni Physiatrist in Orthopedic Rehabilitation at Humanitas in Rozzano, for details on these orthopedic rehab techniques.


How does cupping work?

A cup is applied to your skin while the oxygen is sucked out of the cup with a flame or by aspiration using a special gun. “When you create a vacuum, the skin and the underlying layer are sucked, drawing more blood to the area. The increased blood supply and the heat produced stimulate muscle relaxation and alleviate pain. The treatment lasts up to 20 minutes”, explains Dr. Baroni.

Man (Athlete) without shirt holding Kinesiology tape roll on taped arm. White studio background.

Kinesio taping and cross taping

Kinesio taping is the application of an elastic cotton patch. It can be used for the treatment of small lesions both neurological and orthopedic. It is applied on the skin and depending in a specific location, direction and tension depending on the injury. Once placed it can either stimulate a hypotonic muscle or relax an overloaded one. Specifically, it acts by stimulating nerve receptors on the skin which communicate with the underlying muscles.

Cross taping involves the use of special crossed, non-elastic bandages. Their application stimulates acupuncture points reducing swelling and inflammation. This method can be used with Kinesio taping, which amplifies the pain-killing effect.

For both cupping therapy and the application of kinesio and cross taping it is important to rely on expert therapists.