Cupping - Alternative medicine for the spa

While recent media attention has brought popularity to the treatment, the act of cupping is an ancient form of alternative medicine dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Cupping occurs when a tool or cup is placed on the skin and forms a suction. This creates a vacuum and lifts the skin into the interior of the cup. With proper training and the right mindset, cupping can be a unique and deeply therapeutic service that elevates the spa experience.

There are many benefits to cupping, including increased circulation, loosening of the connective tissue or fascia, plain relief from muscle soreness or spasms, toxin release, slimming effects on cellulite dimpling and more. Different techniques and tools will yield different results.

Cupping can also be partnered with other services at a spa such as deep tissue massages, reflexology and even acupuncture. At The Spa in Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas, we use a combination of cupping and advance massage techniques to draw out impurities and relieve muscle tension without bruising or scarring the body.

When considering implementing the treatment in an establishment, the first step is to evaluate the needs of the spa’s clientele and determine which type of cupping method is appropriate for that group. There are several variations of cupping that range from light massages to very technical types which can be intimidating for some clients.

Here are some points to consider when choosing what type of cupping treatments to add to your spa menu:

Tools and Techniques – The types of cups used during the treatment can affect its benefits. Some of the most common kinds involve glass cups with an added element of fire and silicone cups that are depressed on the skin. We use silicone cups because they are more user-friendly, pliable and don’t have as harsh of an effect on the skin as other approaches. Therapists may also choose to apply the cups by hand, which involves squeezing the air out of the cup manually and placing it on the skin, or by attaching a gadget to the top of the cup to vacuum the air out.

Stagnant versus Sliding – Placing or parking the cups versus sliding them is also a minor but important difference. When cups are parked for a few minutes, it often results in round bruises like the ones that were seen on swimmer Michael Phelps during the 2016 Olympic Games. When cups are moved along the skin and not left stagnant, the skin will often get a little red during the process, but will rarely leave marks. This is done by applying massage oil to aid in gliding the cups over the skin.

Dry versus Wet Cupping – Dry cupping is a method where suctions are created via cups on particular points on the body. Wet cupping takes this a step further by pricking or creating small incisions on the skin to release any toxic blood or fluids built up in the body. After determining which cupping method is right for the spa, properly training staff and applying the right protocols when providing the treatment is equally crucial in ensuring guests are receiving the best service. There are many Continuing Education Unit (CEU) courses therapists can take to further educate themselves about cupping. These courses are essential in making sure they have a basic understanding of the treatment and are comfortable with the technique.

Spas should also decide what steps therapists will carry out in the treatment room when interacting with guests. They may want to consider having guests fill out additional release forms that are separate from the general intake sheet and specific to the cupping treatment they are requesting. As with any spa service, therapists should always thoroughly explain the process and technique so that guests fully understand the treatment.

Cupping can be intimidating for both those in the spa industry and spa enthusiasts wishing to try the treatment. However with an open mind and careful application, cupping can be a wonderfully therapeutic experience that can be enjoyed by itself or coupled with other services.


Author: Shannon Mariani is the Spa Director at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas’s Forbes Five-Star Spa. Shannon is a seasoned professional with more than 10 years of experience in the spa industry working with high-end brands such as Vdara Hotel & Spa, Spa Southern Highlands and Flamingo Spa Las Vegas.


by Shannon Mariani | Fall 2017