My Fire Cupping Experience

With big races on the horizon and dealing with injury (more about that HERE), the normal prescription of stretching and "taking time off" wasn't cutting it. So I turned to a local Physical Therapist to see if "fire cupping"could help me.

I have to say I was pretty skeptical at first. I'd looked up "fire cupping" before, and it seemed like just a fad. Something Hollywood celebs raved about, involving removing "toxins", blah blah etc. So I doubted anything like that could help me. But once the PTs at OSR Physical Therapy talked with me about WHY they use it, I was more intrigued.

Obligatory "Fire Cupping Selfie"

The Physical Therapist who has been helping me and performed my treatment, Shaun Palmer of OSR Physical Therapy, wrote up a little background information and breakdown of what fire cupping is and how it can help athletes over come injuries like tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, muscle strain, etc.
"Fire cupping is commonly performed by acupuncturists and some massage therapists. It’s rare to find a Physical Therapist who performs this treatment because it’s not a normal Physical Therapy treatment. It’s also known as myofascial decompression. As the name means, it decompresses (pulls apart) tissues. Over time our tissues can become dehydrated and stick together, not moving freely as they once did. Injury has the same effect on tissue in that it creates scarring of tissue layers, causing them to adhere to each other. The method of fire cupping breaks up these adhesions. It also reinstates the body’s natural inflammatory reaction. "
"Whenever we get injured our body runs a course of inflammation that brings blood flow to the tissue to help clear cellular debris and bring nutrients to the injured tissues to help it heal. Sometimes the injury isn’t completely healed by the time this inflammatory process finishes. Fire cupping reinstates this reaction, almost like telling the body that it forgot to take care of something and it needs to go back and pay better attention to the area. "
So how's it work? A fire is flashed inside a specially made glass cup, to pull out the oxygen and create a suction. The cup is placed where skin and other tissues are pulled into the opening. Sometimes it's left in place, other times it's moved around. In most cases, and obviously mine, deep bruises occur in areas of "tissue injury or dysfunction".

How did it feel? It didn't "hurt", but it's a very "aggressive" form of massage. Imagine a foam roller, but worse. It mostly just felt tight, and when the cups were slid around I could feel it working deeper than any foam roller had.

Yeah, the marks LOOK bad, but they really didn't FEEL that bad. Afterwards, I wouldn't even say I felt bruised... but rather just sensitive like a small sunburn.

The marks have already to started to subside, but I returned for a second treatment. This time, on the side of my hip where I've been having some major IT Band issues.

Overall Results: I thought I'd just have some marks and maybe relief for a day or two, but I honestly feel like it was a "reset" for my aching, tight problem spots! I will return again this upcoming week for one last fire cupping session before the Hood To Coast race coming up.  I believe that with fire cupping, coupled with vigorous strengthening and stretching, I can still achieve my upcoming goals.

Would I recommend fire cupping? Yes, depending on your situation. If it's a serious injury, obviously you need to see a doctor. If you're having chronic tendonitis from muscle imbalances, old injuries, or just have some problem spots that could use a rest, I would highly recommend seeing an acupuncturist or a PT that performs fire cupping, or "myofascial decompression". 

Have you ever tried or been interested in trying fire cupping?


  1. I've been going to Mississauga acupuncturist for a month for head, neck, and shoulder issues I've been having for the better part of a decade. The treatments have been amazing; I feel calm and pain-free for days after the sessions.

  2. I also heard about the fire cupping and was skeptical at first. I decided after several friends told me they were able to play faster after injury to give it a go. I was really apprehensive at first, but it was such an amazing experience. I actually felt better that afternoon and was able to get back on the field that week.

    William Connors @ The Healing Station


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