Keeping Your Dreams Alive

Every January, a new group of NFL hopefuls from around the country arrive in Florida to train for two months for the NFL combine and their pro days. These young men, most of them around 23 years old, will participate in grueling twice-daily workouts for six days a week.

I get the opportunity to help them recover from these workouts by combining massage and vacuum therapy, a recovery system that helps keeps them on the field and their dreams of playing in the NFL alive.

The NFL combine is an opportunity for football athletes to showcase their speed, strength, agility and all-around athletic prowess. With NFL team agents and scouts from around the country watching these athletes perform at the combine, it’s critical that they are at their best. The training sessions are vital and recovery is equally essential to allow them to continue putting their bodies through some grueling work. The group of football players I work with train at Athletic Edge in Lakewood Ranch, Fla., with Mike Gough. Through mutual pro athlete clients, Gough reached out to me in 2012 to help his athletes recover better.

From running backs to lineman, the athletes I work on range in size from 190 to 300 pounds and, in just two months, their bodies go through an amazing transformation. But with those frequent workouts, comes soreness and muscle fatigue, which is where I come in. By combining massage and vacuum therapy, I’m able to reduce those effects from their workouts and help keep injuries at bay, giving them the optimal recovery.

The vacuum therapy machine has various cup sizes, which range up to 6 inches, to enable me to go deeper and work more effectively on these athletes. Vacuum therapy is a unique type of manual therapy using the traditional Chinese cupping tool. In traditional cupping, small cups are used and placed on the body for long periods of time and some movement may be incorporated. In contrast, the modernized vacuum therapy modality uses an array of cup sizes and a machine to create the vacuum pressure that gives the therapist more control.

Manual cups used in traditional cupping therapies may also be used for vacuum therapy. Static cup placement can be used for short time intervals to release specific areas of tightness or a trigger point in the muscle, and other soft tissue mobilization techniques using the vacuum address multiple common conditions. The varied modes on the machine allow for static placement with a pumping action which is also so beneficial for recovery from workouts or injury.

By placing the cup opening on the surface of the skin and creating vacuum pressure with the machine, the tissue gently rises into the cup. This creates vasodilation almost instantly. With the machine’s variable dial, vacuum pressure can be created at a comfortable level for the athlete as I manipulate the soft tissue.

The larger cups enable me to cover more surface area, particularly with larger athletes, as well as to go deeper into the tissue and allow for a greater stretch of the fascia, connective tissue, and musculature. With athletes, there is often micro scarring created from tiny tears from the constant workouts and the vacuum therapy machine can make easy work of lifting and stretching this restricted tissue. This gives the athlete greater mobility and overall easier movement.The hip flexors are an area where restriction is often found and athletes often report back to me after a session about how their speed increased, along with their mobility.

Duran Lowe, a safety from Wake Forest College in North Carolina, said vacuum therapy treatments have made a world of difference for him. “I can honestly say that without vacuum therapy I wouldn’t have been able to perform at my peak for every workout, because my body would have been too tired and sore to push through the pain.”

Duran started getting treatments weeks later than the rest of the group, after hearing from other athletes he was training with how much they were helping. He was accustomed to various recovery techniques and would use the cold tubs after workouts, stretch, and utilize the foam roller. But he still remained sore. When he started receiving treatments with massage and vacuum therapy, he quickly realized its benefits. “Once I started getting the vacuum therapy, I could feel my body start to heal faster, my recovery process sped up.”

On a rare occasion, an athlete may have experienced traditional cupping therapy. Turner Petersen, from Rice University, quickly realized the difference between these modalities. “From my experience with cupping, smaller cups were the only sizes used and they typically are applied to a single area and would occasionally be moved along muscles/ligaments. The treatment doesn’t compare to vacuum therapy [with the machine]. For me, I was battling a lower hamstring issue this past summer while training. We were able to use different levels of suction and different sizes of cups to pinpoint the deep strain and week-by-week, relieve the pain I was feeling behind my knee.” Petersen had tried various massage therapy techniques with therapists, but to no avail. The next day when running, the pain was right back where it was. With the vacuum therapy added every session, we were able to locate the source of the issue at his distal hamstring attachment. With each weekly session, we were closer to alleviating the pain completely.

I have found that the therapy these young athletes have experienced varies greatly from college and universities, and it’s a unique opportunity to introduce them to vacuum therapy combined with massage, especially as they seek out ways to sustain such vigorous workouts and pursue their NFL careers. Sometimes they make it as an NFL athlete, sometimes they don’t. I’ve seen these athletes be selected as fifth round draft picks and play in the Super Bowl their first season earning a ring.

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Lauren Lane Portrait

Lauren Lane


With a background in structural and postural restoration, Lauren is an advocate of using cupping therapy to aid in myofascial release and lymphatic therapy. This allows her to work with patients who need the deep tissue work in a way that is much more comfortable. Her extensive knowledge and ability to explain complex topics in a relatable way paired with her enthusiasm for teaching makes her an ideal instructor. She also is a speciality in Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs), where the majority of her clients come to her for help with jaw pain and discomfort.

Stacie Nevelus Portrait

Stacie Nevelus

LMT, CNMT, Modern Cupping TherapyE/P, CECP

A specialist in therapeutic and sports massage applications, Stacie has become known as a specialist in acute and chronic injuries, and has expanded that knowledge through her work with elite and professional athletes in the MLB and NFL, as well as world-ranking professionals and Olympians. As a result of her expertise, Stacie has been featured often in industry publications, and conducted a number of appearances on TV and radio to help educate others on the benefits of cupping in sports therapies.

Shannon Gilmartin's Portrait

Shannon Gilmartin


Shannon Gilmartin, CMT, co-founding owner of Modern Cupping Therapy Education Company, is a Licensed and Nationally Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Modern Cupping Therapy Practitioner and Educator, and Certified Manual Lymph Drainage Practitioner. In addition to her focus in cupping bodywork, she has over twenty years of experience in bodywork, including: manual lymph drainage, medical massage, myofascial release, neuromuscular, craniosacral, soft tissue injury rehabilitation, Thai massage, and visceral manipulation. She has taught all over the United States and abroad, including Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, and Puerto Rico (US). Shannon owns a private practice in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA.

Shannon has authored the Modern Cupping Therapy series, including ‘The Guide to Modern Cupping Therapy: A Step-by-Step Source for Vacuum Therapies,’ ‘Easy Facial Cupping at Home,’ and ‘Face and Body Cupping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Lymph Drainage for Professional Cosmetic Rejuvenation, Cellulite Reduction and Contouring.’ Shannon has been published in several magazines, been interviewed on several platforms, lectured at sports medicine conferences, and hosted online webinars.

Shannon is also very passionate about her work with charitable organizations, including Global Healthworks Foundation, Homes of Hope Orphanage system, and Surfers Healing.

Searching for a Cupping Certification?

Focus on the FULL MCT Certification Course

Discover the truly dynamic potential of therapeutic cupping and earn a certification in cupping therapy. While cupping therapies have existed worldwide throughout time, Modern Cupping Therapy offers education in the theory, safety, and practical application of vacuum therapies for the non-invasive (no bleeding or ‘wet’ cupping), therapeutic usage of cups.

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Fundamentals of Modern Cupping Therapy

2-day Course
12.5-14 CEUs*

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Therapeutic Cupping for Lymphatic Drainage

1-day Course
6.25-7 CEUs*

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MCT for Pathology & Scar Tissue

1-day Course
6.25-7 CEUs*

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Modern Cupping Therapy Full Certification

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*CEUs vary by profession and state. Please confirm that your board will accept the CEUs before registering for a course.

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Start with our Introductory Courses

Providing an excellent cupping therapy service for your clients begins with understanding the science and the safety of using therapeutic cupping in your bodywork. Each student of MCTEC starts with our introductory courses to ensure that everyone knows the science and practices the safety in accordance with our standard. Everyone starts here.

To take any additional MCT courses, practitioners must complete Fundamentals of Modern Cupping Therapy and Therapeutic Cupping for Lymph Drainage OR our 3-day Combination Course.

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2-day Course
12.5-14 CEUs*

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3-day Course
18.75-21 CEUs*

Want more detailed info about our Introductory Courses? Click the titles of each to get more info.
*CEUs vary by profession and state. Please confirm that your board will accept the CEUs before registering for a course.