Cupping for Plantar Fasciitis

In this post, I’ll discuss cupping for plantar fasciitis and alternative treatments for stubborn foot pain.

Cupping has been a critical tool in my physical therapy toolbelt and continues to be a client-favorite. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

Chain Effect cupping kit with cups and rubber pump

What is Cupping:

Cupping is a traditional eastern medicine practice adopted by physical therapists.

Cupping professionals will identify painful areas and place plastic cups strategically on your body.

A negative suction is then created to stretch the skin and underlying tissue and dilate the capillaries beneath the skin.

Mechanically, the negative pressure stimulates an increase in blood flow.

This negative pressure can also elicit ecchymosis of the skin. Ecchymosis is the discoloration of skin underneath the top layer causing bruising (circle marks).

At this time, your body will naturally release healing hormones to that area to assist in recovery and restoration.

There are many theories to the biochemical series of events that occurs following the application of cups by licensed practitioners.

One leading theory is the “Release of Nitric Oxide and increased blood circulation theory,” which states that cupping incudes nitric oxide to the localized area which then mediates vasodilation and regulates blood flow.

Other theories outline potential immunological effects of cupping, but more research is needed.

Read more about cupping in our cupping blog post here.

Cupping for Pain Relief

Cupping assists in relieving muscle aches, pain, soreness and muscle pulls by suction cups strategically placed on the body.

At Chain Effect, we place cups on our patients for up to 5 minutes.

The suction force increased blood flow to the area then expands and breaks open capillaries under the skin, stimulating the body’s natural healing response.

Pain reduction from cupping is theorized by the “Pain Gate Theory,” a heavily studied and respected theory.

Simply put, the pain gate theory states that your body can only process so many stimulations at one time. Your pain “gates” are either open or closed based on the message being sent through them.

It is believed that cupping can stimulate your pain receptors, and at the proper threshold, the stimulation from the receptors closes the “gates” and reduces your perception of pain.

This can allow for light to moderate pain relief during which strength, stability and mobility exercises can be initiated.

The treatment risks are very low for cupping therapy and the rewards of pain relief can be felt immediately once the cups are removed.

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis is inflammation of the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that connects your heel bone to the base of your toes.

The plantar fascia helps create and support your arch and assist in walking.

This inflammation can have a wide variety of causes including weakness, acute injury, or overuse.

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by tight or weak calf muscles. It’s important to see a physical therapist to determine possible root causes and address them through a combination of manual therapy and corrective exercises.

Runners are some of the most common athletes affected by plantar fasciitis or stubborn foot pain.

Cupping for Plantar Fasciitis

Cupping for plantar fasciitis is a great tool to assist with pain relief, release fascial adhesions, and calf tightness.

It is one of the tools in the tool box to aide in recovery and assist in progression towards functional goals.

Cupping for plantar fasciitis generally lasts up to 8 minutes if treating multiple areas.

The rest of the appointment is spent either diagnosing root causes or treating them through a variety of manual therapy techniques and corrective strengthening exercises.

Can You Walk After Cupping on Your Feet?

Yes, you might experience mild soreness immediately after cupping but will quickly dissipate with movement. 

Chain Effect cupping kit with cups and rubber pump

Difference Between Cupping and Dry Needling for Plantar Fasciitis.

Although cupping and dry needling are both treatments for soft tissue issues, the application is different. 

Cupping utilizes negative pressure created by plastic cups to increase blood flow and decrease muscle soreness between the muscle and fascial layers on the surface of your body. 

At Chain Effect, we use a method others call “dry cupping,” so there is no skin penetration.

On the other hand, dry needling uses a small needle to penetrate the skin and reset the muscle fibers through a twitch response. 

Dry needling for plantar fasciitis can be uncomfortable, while cupping is slightly more mild.

Learn more about dry needling through our blog post or Raleigh dry needling landing page

Chain Effect cupping kit with cups and rubber pump
Dry Needling on Foot

Photo shows dry needling for plantar fasciitis at Chain Effect. This is different than cupping for plantar fasciitis.

What to Expect After Cupping for Plantar Fasciitis?

You can expect mild soreness, possible dark circles in the area that was treated that can last 2-5 days.

You should also expect some relief from your pain.

Cupping for Runners in Raleigh

Cupping can be utilized on most parts of the body.

It is very effective on calves, hamstring, quads, neck and back muscles to relieve tight muscles and enhance the way you move.

Our Raleigh runners often enjoy cupping on tight areas, followed by a free Normatec session in our office to help flush the legs.

Other Treatment Options for Plantar Fasciitis

Scraping, dry needling, manual deep tissue release, stretching and strengthening are all great treatment options for foot pain, depending on the patient.

Most physical therapy sessions at Chain Effect will use a combination of techniques to achieve the most long-lasting results.

Our physical therapists charge a flat fee by the hour so that there’s no extra fee for cupping therapy or any combination of techniques.

You can feel free to email or call us and request a call back from a physical therapist to help answer your questions about your foot pain.

Chain Effect cupping kit with cups and rubber pump


Now that you know a bit about cupping for plantar fasciitis, you can learn about what to do after cupping here.

Do you have stubborn foot pain that won’t go away? Which treatment do you think would be best for you?


Written by Jason McLaughlin, DPT, CSCS.

Jason McLaughlin is an experienced physical therapist, certified Functional Dry Needling Practitioner, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who uses dry needling and cupping to deliver a first-class experience to his active clients at Chain Effect.