When you’re struggling to eke out that last squat, pollution is likely one of the last things on your mind. However, according to Alvarez, air quality actually impacts your workout because internal and external toxins accumulate in the body over time and can significantly affect your muscle endurance.
To release this toxic buildup, she recommends cupping, a treatment where 1- to 3-inch glass or plastic cups are placed strategically over your body. The practitioner creates a vacuum in the cup by briefly holding a lit cotton ball underneath it or using a hot water bath, rubber ball, or other mechanism, and then lays the cup mouth-side down on the body. The slight vacuum is said to extract toxins by increasing blood flow to the muscle and tissue underneath, thereby helping the body cleanse itself, reduce inflammation, and stimulate healing. Alvarez says it’s like a “reverse” massage: “Instead of pushing the muscles into the body to get them to relax, suction is used to gently pull the muscle tissue upward to help it release.”
Cupping is often used for athletes to treat sore muscles, but it can also help with injuries and pain, including strained shoulders. Alvarez says many of her clients see results both in their comfort level and in the gym in just one session.