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It’s not uncommon to see athletes walking around with massive circular bruises on their lower back, hamstrings, and shoulders. Such marks are the product of cupping therapy, a type of soft tissue therapy thought to reduce pain, particularly with regard to post-workout muscle soreness and injury rehabilitation.
This type of therapy is thought to have originated in ancient Egypt or China, though there are historical records of cupping used to treat many different ailments in a wide variety of cultures throughout history1.
In modern times, it was typically only performed in the offices of physical therapists, chiropractors, and the like. Now, fitness recovery companies like AchedAway are bringing physical therapy home with products like the AchedAway Smart Cupping Therapy Massager.
In my AchedAway cupper review, I analyze the efficacy of such devices and detail our testing experience with the product.
Testing Workout Recovery Devices Since 2018
I’ve been writing about fitness recovery since 2018, with an emphasis on the tech products driving at-home muscle recovery tactics. For almost five years, I’ve followed the many advances in technologies like percussive therapy, cryotherapy, infrared therapy, and more. And as a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist who stays up-to-date with the latest research in physiology, I can understand and break down how these products affect the human body.
- Versatile cupping massager
- Has massaging and red light therapy capabilities all-in-one
- Has 3 cupping sizes, including small, medium, and large
Pros & Cons
- May help reduce pain and inflammation
- Easy to clean
- Curved cup that helps the cups stay attached
- On the expensive side
- Have to have the Achedaway app
- Has to be recharged
A Quick Look at the AchedAway Smart Cupping Therapy Massager
The AchedAway Cupper is a cupping device designed to do all of the same things that cupping therapy in a physical therapist’s office does: improve blood circulation and offer pain relief, primarily.
The goal of this type of product is to make traditional cupping available for home use. It’s not so different from using scrapers, foam rollers, and massage guns at home—these are all myofascial release therapy devices that, once upon a time, were only available in a healthcare office.
You can purchase a single cupper motor or a pair, and each motor comes with three cups: small, medium, and large. The cuppers use red light therapy as an alternative to the traditional cupping methods that involve an open flame or pricking the skin.
Before You Buy
- This product utilizes electronic cupping, not the manual versions you may experience in a physical therapist’s office, which can involve a pump, a flame, or pricking the skin.
- One unit costs about $170 and the double unit costs about $230. If you know you’ll want to treat multiple muscle groups at once, it’s more cost-effective to purchase the double unit.
Is the AchedAway Cupper Worth It?
GGR founder and expert product tester Coop, who tested the AchedAway cupper, says, “If you want electronic cupping, yeah, it’s worth it. I’ve seen more and more of these enter the market and most look quite cheaply made. This is the standout option at this point in time.”
- People who like cupping therapy and find it to work for them
- Anyone with a couple hundos to spare who wants to try cupping
- People who get cupping done at a healthcare provider’s office and want to do more sessions at home (and it’s approved by their provider)
Not recommended for:
- People on tight budgets, as $200 or so dollars could be spent on something with more proven benefits, like heat or ice therapy, or even protein powder
- Perhaps people who bruise very easily—check with your doctor first
AchedAway Cupper Specs
|Product weight||0.44 lbs|
|Cup attachments||Small, medium, and large|
|Therapy modes||Wake Up, Relax, Massage, Professional, Powerful|
|Type of therapy||“Dynamic suction” and red light therapy|
|Suction intensity level||-60~0 kPa (kilopascals)|
|Red light wavelength||630-670 nm (nanometers)|
|Battery life||3 hrs|
|Charging time||2.5 hrs|
|Warranty||2-year warranty on device; 6 months on batteries|
First of All: Does Cupping Really Work?
Cupping is a popular pain management therapy. It’s often used by professionals who specialize in soft tissue treatments, such as physical therapists, acupuncturists, and massage therapists, to increase blood flow to specific areas of the body.
The theory behind cupping is that the vacuum force directs more blood to targeted areas—so much, in fact, that tiny blood vessels break and bruising ensues. Your body then treats the area as an injury site and initiates the recovery process, sending more blood, oxygen, and nutrients there.
People theorize that this heals muscle tissue and results in relief from sore muscles, back pain, trigger points, and other ailments. Some people think cupping works by opening the pores and allowing toxins to escape from the skin, while others yet believe that cupping activates the immune system or sparks nitric oxide production.
As a 2019 review in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine2 puts it, “Apparently, no single theory exists to explain the whole effects of cupping.”
And that’s just the thing: There’s no high-quality evidence3 to support any of these theories, so most people who engage in cupping therapy (whether they’re the provider or patient) are largely operating off of anecdotal evidence.
The little evidence we do have in support of cupping tends to “suggest a potential positive short-term effect,” like in this 2014 review in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Sciences4, which is really saying there’s nothing definitive or substantial to go off of.
Using the AchedAway Cupper: As Good as the Real Thing?
Now that you know how efficacious (or not) cupping therapy really is, we’re going to continue our review of the AchedAway Cupper through that lens.
The device is “simple to use and works like normal cupping,” according to Coop. “It takes the work out of dynamic cupping that requires a hand pump, which is difficult to do manually.”
One of the biggest differences between the AchedAway cupper and professional cupping—aside from the AchedAway device being electronic—is that it uses red light therapy.
“Personally, I’m still a bit skeptical of red light therapy,” Coop says, “but there is some research pointing to it potentially being positive.”
Most research that posits red light therapy as beneficial is on skin rejuvenation, but even then, “its ubiquity and commercial success have outpaced empirical approaches on which solid clinical evidence is established,” reports a 2021 review in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal5.
For pain management and pain relief for exercise-related causes, the body of evidence is even less compelling, with a 2021 meta-analysis in the European Journal of Investigation in Health Psychology and Education6 stating that infrared therapy is promising for treatment of musculoskeletal diseases but “has failed to facilitate muscle recovery following athletic injuries.”
Cupping in general isn’t something Coop says he’d recommend over another recovery tactic. “Cupping takes quite a bit of time and I think people would find more benefit for recovery by simply moving more, like going on walks, swimming, and sitting in squat holds,” Coop says.
As a certified personal trainer and functional training specialist, I have to agree with him here. And between this and other recovery tools, Coop says he’s likely to choose a massage gun or foam roller before a cupper.
Ease of Use
Compared to having cupping therapy performed on you by a pro, which is a completely passive process for the patient, using the AchedAway cupper is much more intensive for the individual.
“It’s definitely more work, as you’re the one doing it,” Coop says. “And, typically with cupping, you have multiple cups going at a time, whereas this is just one (or two if you get the dual unit).”
“I feel like the suction is similar to other methods, though, and overall it’s pretty simple to learn to use,” he says.
AchedAway calls this device a “smart cupper” and a “multifunctional dynamic cupping massager.” This makes it all sound very fancy, but in reality, the features aren’t that advanced.
“Dynamic cupping technology” simply refers to the fact that there are multiple intensity levels of suction, and the motor works via “rhythmic alternation of suction and release.”
Additionally, the motor units are app-controlled. “This is a positive and negative,” according to Coop. “The negative is the app is just OK from a UX standpoint. The positive is that it can be updated.”
Returns are accepted within 30 days of the date of purchase—not delivery—as long as the item is in its original packaging. This means you won’t have a full month to try the product you buy before deciding if you’re keeping it. AchedAway does not cover the cost of return shipping.
The warranty on the device and motor is two years from the date of purchase. You get six months on the lithium-ion battery.
Ordering and Assembling the AchedAway Cupper
You can buy the AchedAway Cupper from achedaway.com. Just add the device to your cart and navigate to the checkout page like you would if you were buying the AchedAway Pro Massage Gun or any other device.
You can also find the cupper on Amazon.
There’s not much assembly to be done—the main thing is enabling Bluetooth and connecting the cupping set to the AchedAway app.
Reviews on AchedAway products are positive across the board. At the time of writing, the cupper device has an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with more than 250 reviews. Many customers seem to have been skeptical of the device at first, but ended up feeling like it really works.
One licensed massage therapist even wrote: “I use the AchedAway cupper for self-care and for clients. This is a great tool. If I have a client that has severe hypertonicity, I usually bust this guy out. Nine out of 10 times, it gets the muscle to release.”
Also, a warning to heed from the above quoted massage therapist:
“If you are not a professional: Please remember not to use this device over lesions of any kind, arteries, thin skin with an abundance of veins (such as your wrists), the face, varicose veins, if you have issues with the integrity of your skin (i.e. you are elderly), you are pregnant, undergoing chemotherapy or currently have cancer, have or have had any kind of severe cardiovascular disease (especially deep vein thrombosis), you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or you have experienced blistering from cupping in the past. Please be careful!”
Some customer reviews mention that the cupper broke their skin and others mention that it isn’t powerful enough, so it seems that there’s a very wide range of effects this product can have depending on the individual.
Final Verdict of Our AchedAway Cupper Review
“I think it meets my expectations for the price,” Coop says of the cupping device. “It doesn’t feel like an Apple product, but it also doesn’t feel crazy cheap. I’m happy with the build quality and although I don’t see it lasting forever, I think it will get the job done for the foreseeable future. I do worry about the battery life declining, but 2.5 hours is a good start point.”
AchedAway Cupper Full Rating
Our AchedAway Cupper review looks at the science behind cupping therapy and how it compares to other workout recovery tools.
Product Currency: USD
Product Price: 169
Product In-Stock: InStock
AchedAway Cupper FAQs
Finally, here are some common questions about cupping therapy.
What is cupping?
Cupping is a type of soft tissue therapy that directs blood to targeted areas of the body by using suction. It has been used throughout history to treat many different diseases and ailments, but is currently used mostly by physical therapists and other professionals to treat muscle pain and tension.
How does cupping work?
While there are a few different types of cupping therapy, the underlying concept is the same: Place domes on specific treatment areas and use suction/vacuuming to bring blood and fluid to the treatment site.
Is cupping actually effective?
There’s not much evidence on whether cupping works or not for soft tissue pain or other ailments. In general, it seems that the consensus is that cupping has potential, but much, much more research is needed to determine its true effectiveness.
- Naseem Akhtar Qureshi, Gazzaffi Ibrahim Ali, et al. History of cupping (Hijama): a narrative review of literature. Journal of Integrative Medicine. 2017;15(3):172-181. doi.org/10.1016/S2095-4964(17)60339-X.
- Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al. The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. J Tradit Complement Med. 2018;9(2):90-97. Published 2018 Apr 30. doi:10.1016/j.jtcme.2018.03.003
- 21.What is cupping? Does it work? Cedars-Sinai. [cited 2023 Mar 16]. Available from: https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/cupping-therapy.html
- 22.Cao H, Li X, Yan X, Wang NS, Bensoussan A, Liu J. Cupping therapy for acute and chronic pain management: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences. 2014 Jul;1(1):49–61.
- Glass GE. Photobiomodulation: The Clinical Applications of Low-Level Light Therapy [published correction appears in Aesthet Surg J. 2022 Apr 12;42(5):566]. Aesthet Surg J. 2021;41(6):723-738. doi:10.1093/asj/sjab025
- Tsagkaris C, Papazoglou AS, Eleftheriades A, et al. Infrared Radiation in the Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions and Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review. Eur J Investig Health Psychol Educ. 2022;12(3):334-343. Published 2022 Mar 14. doi:10.3390/ejihpe12030024
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