Traditional cupping’s contemporary counterparts—largely known today as vacuum manual therapies—are being readily assimilated into progressive medical facilities, right along with the spa and massage fields. While the modern applications of this tool have evolved from its ancient origins, the development of vacuum manual therapies over the last few decades has largely increased the scope of applications for this simple tool and made it more accessible to today’s health-care providers.
Surgical Preparation and Recovery
Pre- and post surgical vacuum manual therapies prepare the surgical site by liquefying and moving congested lymph so the lymphatic system works more efficiently before and after the procedure. Many clients, and their physicians, have been amazed at the ability vacuum therapy has to minimize post surgical swelling and discomfort. Vacuum therapy also stimulates blood flow to the tissues, enabling faster healing. Post surgical treatments focus on clearing blood from the procedure out of the area, creating surface vascular dilation to allow deeper inflammation to travel to the skin’s surface for elimination, and minimizing scarring.
Scar tissue can be improved with vacuum therapy soon after a surgical procedure or injury, or even years down the road. Hypertrophic and keloid scar tissue is treated with care, since overstimulation can actually create more tissue growth. Scar tissue can travel deep into the body, attaching to soft tissue, organs, and bony structures. This causes restriction in movement and often blocks lymph flow in and out of the area. A good example of this is the scar tissue from a caesarean section or hysterectomy, which can block the flow of lymph into the upper inguinal nodes and create lymphatic congestion in the abdomen. Vacuum therapy lifts and stretches the surface and deep scar tissue, and there is often an audible pop as the adhesion is released.
Burn tissue is unique scar tissue, and many burn victims must endure regular stretching of the skin to allow for growth and/or freedom of movement during recovery. Vacuum therapy gently separates and softens the skin, often decreasing the frequency and pain of the stretching procedures. Amputees also have similar issues, and minimal and gentle pumping movements with the vacuum are very effective in decreasing pain and stretching the thick scar tissue that comes with amputation.
Lymphatic liquefaction describes the action of vacuum therapy on congested lymph, called solid bloat. Liquefaction is a term often used in geology to describe the breakdown of solid ground resulting from heavy vibrations, such as earthquakes, where the ground becomes liquefied and moves just like water. For solid bloat, which is congested and solidified lymph, the vacuum is used to bring latent body heat or inflammation to the area to liquefy the solid lymph. Pre-clear the nodes and direct the liquefied lymph to them for filtering. Any adhesions or other soft-tissue restrictions in the path of the flow to the nodes must also be addressed. Soft-tissue adhesions act like a dam in a river and will block the flow of lymph. Adhesions can be caused from old injuries, life habits such as a heavy purse carried on the shoulder, and restrictive clothing such as bike shorts, tight socks, bras, headbands, and any other compressive garment.
Lymphatic liquefaction treatments are also valuable to bariatric and liposuction patients. Clearing old congestion will enable the body to activate homeostatic mechanisms that can increase metabolism and aid with weight loss. Treatments begin weeks before the surgery so the patient is well prepared. Physicians that my team and I have worked with report that these surgical procedures have been easier and took less time than those not preparing with vacuum therapies.