Low Back Pain? Try Myofascial Cupping!

Tessa Burns MartinBody work and Yoga, Massage Therapy

Now that spring is here, there is an urge to purge! Many people use this time to declutter and get rid of items that take up space but provide no use. You might start packing things up in heavy boxes or moving large pieces of furniture around to clean those hidden spots. With all this bending and lifting, your low back could become inflamed, aggravated and painful.

This non-specific low back pain often arises when the thick, broad sheet of fascia that covers the entire low back becomes irritated. This sheet of fascia travels from the pelvis to the mid-back and up the spine to connect with the fascia of the neck.

I went on a walk through the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary this afternoon and came across a bird skull with the entire spine intact laying on the snow. It was a great visual reminder to see the connectivity of all the tissues – the skull, the vertebrae, the sacrum, and the connective tissue (fascia) that holds it all together. It made me think about how I, as a massage therapist, must remember to treat the whole chain of structures when addressing a client’s problem.

When treating non-specific low back pain, the treatment should be widespread, addressing all potential areas of discomfort. I have found that myofascial cupping is an effective technique to include in the treatment of low back pain. I use cups and hands-on massage techniques on the entire back, the hips, and the abdomen (when the client is comfortable with it). Cupping creates a sucking action that helps make space in between the layers of muscle, fascia, bone, and fluids. Cupping can increase local blood and lymph circulation of an area, flushing out waste that may have been trapped, including inflammatory substances. It can also release adhesions in the fascia that create a feeling of tightness that can travel to other parts of the body – for example, creating suppleness in the fascia of the low back can help decrease pain in the neck and shoulders!

There are a couple different ways of performing cupping – dynamic (moving the cups around) or static (keeping the cups in one spot). Depending on client preference and on the problem, both dynamic and static cuping may be used during the same treatment. Since fascia takes more time to release than muscle tissue, using cups allows me to treat the low back, upper hips, and the spine in a shorter amount of time than if I was only using massage techniques- this allows for more effective treatment.

If your low back has been acting up, or you’re looking for a preventative treatment, I invite you to try myofascial cupping!