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Cupping - Vacuum in the veterinary physiotherapie?

Myofascial decompression therapy in the animal patient

Tissue treatment with negative pressure has been used in humans for several thousand years, but is still relatively new in the veterinary field - and yet offers extensive possibilities for applying physiotherapeutic healing stimuli to the body. So far, cupping therapy has mainly been used from the point of view of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but with the newly developed understanding of myofascial problem complexes, treatment with negative pressure has also been reinterpreted and adapted. Cupping offers new possibilities in the veterinary physiotherapy, especially on the musculoskeletal system.

How does the vacuum work? In the human area, different variants are used in cupping to generate the negative pressure. Balloon jars, silicone cups, or heated jars are used, but many of these are not suitable for the animal patient and fur. New technical possibilities have arisen with electrical devices for veterinary medicine, since with hairless skin it is sufficient to generate a vacuum once, but with fur the vacuum escapes immediately without sufficient sealing. With cupping devices, the negative pressure in the connected glass can be permanently renewed.

How and why do I use myofascial decompression in my patients?

I can use cupping as part of osteopathic treatment to increase the success of loosening fascia and muscles in the long term. But I also like to use cupping therapy as an individual application to go over the entire body and to achieve far-reaching effects on the inside of the horse due to the intensity of the application. In this way, organs and deep-seated muscles can also be strongly influenced, which are otherwise difficult to access manually.

What is the difference to a conventional massage?

During a massage, tense muscle fibers are loosened using a variety of manual techniques. All techniques have in common that pressure is applied to the tissue from the outside. Surely everyone has already experienced manual therapy in physiotherapy and knows that this can be uncomfortable, especially with severe tension. Of course, you always have to be careful with the horses and never hurt the patient, because the animals have no idea that it hurts a little now, but will be much better tomorrow. In the case of cupping therapy, on the other hand, traction stimuli are primarily applied on the tissue. The tissue is sucked in under the attached cup by means of negative pressure and is thus greatly expanded locally. This loosens tense muscle fibers much faster than with conventional massage techniques. Glued fasciae are also easily lifted and easily separated from each other. The after-effects of cupping, such as increased lymph flow, blood circulation and metabolism, are similar to those of manual massage. However, due to the strong vacuum created, these processes happen much faster and to a greater extent.

Where should the cupping be applied to help?

Due to the horse's body, cupping is not possible everywhere. In the limbs, it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve negative pressure the deeper you go. When the legs are raised, however, the tendons and suspensory straps relax and can thus be treated. There are also restrictions in the head area due to bony structures and fine nerve tracts. You have to work very carefully here, but the horses are very grateful for the cupping relaxation on the lateral chewing muscles, which often suffer from severe tension in riding horses. Cupping is not a problem on the flat structures of the rest of the body, the therapy can also be carried out with longer winter coats.


  • Release of muscle tension

  • Release of fascial restrictions

  • Stimulating old hematomas and edema, phlegmon

  • Loosening of muscles and pain inhibition in kissing spines, spondylosis

  • Circulation promotion and pain relief in osteoarthritis

  • Pain relief support for HD, ED

  • Stimulus in chronic metabolic disorders

  • Mobilize solid scar tissue

  • Old or poorly healed tendon injuries

  • Restoration of tissue elasticity after surgery

Risk and side effects of cupping therapy

The treated tissue is very agitated and stimulated by the cupping. Long-term local use can also lead to bleeding in the tissue, which is fundamentally desirable with cupping, as it maximizes the effects in the area.

  • It is therefore possible that the horses are somewhat sensitive to touch in the cupped areas for the next day or two. Therefore, you should not stress the animals any further and simply go without grooming or equipment in these areas.

  • Some horses are clearly exhausted after the treatment. Especially animals with strong tension and fascial adhesions often rest more than usual on the day of treatment and the day after.

  • In horses with very sensitive skin, often foxes or gray horses, it is also rare for small pustules to form under the skin, which are caused by the excessive processes in the tissue. These usually subside after a few hours or a day when the skin has calmed down.


  • Acute inflammatory diseases

  • Acute tendon and ligament injuries

  • Acute herniated discs

  • General bad condition (fever, apathy)

  • tumor diseases

  • pregnancy



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