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First Look: Wave Tools Therapy Riptide Sport Cupping Set

Basics

The Riptide Sport Cupping Set is a set of four silicone cups for at-home or professional cupping. The two larger cups are 2.6" in diameter, and the two smaller cups are 2.2" in diameter. You can either apply the cups by pressing them to your skin and pushing down on the plunger, or for a stronger seal inverting the cup then folding the outside back down. The cups come with a hard-shell carrying case with a clip-off loop.


Pros

Easy to self-apply (way easier, say, than the old-school method of heating a glass) // Forceful adhesion, especially on flatter parts of the body // Alleviate pain in the moment and have helped aid rehabilitation and recovery // Easy to transport and keep track of thanks to the carrying case

Cons

You need to be creative to get them to stick to convex parts of the body—lotion helps!


Our Thoughts

At only $33, the Riptide Sport Cupping Set is a good buy and a PT tool well worth having in the arsenal. The cups have helped with immediate, spot pain relief as well as with rehabbing chronic injuries and problem areas. If you're into cupping, they are also way easier to use than the old-school glass-heating method. Plus you get cool-looking purple "crop circles" on your skin that make good conversation starters at the gym!


Size Reviewed

two 2.6" diameter cups, two 2.2" diameter cups

Weight

n/a

Price

$33

Brand

Wave Tools Therapy


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“Whatever keeps the car on the road”

My friend Chris and I took a climbing trip to Ten Sleep, Wyoming, in June. As we—both lifelong climbers in our 40s, with the litany of injuries both chronic and acute that go with the territory—compared notes about who was bringing what, Chris, half-jokingly, said, “I hope there’s room in the car for my big bag of PT tools!”

“No worries,” I said. “I’ve probably got it covered with my own PT stuff.” Foam roller? Check! Armaid? Check! Elastic bands? Check! Dumbbells? Check! Wave Tool? Check! Ice packs? Check! We were ready for our week-and-a-half of cragging, plus nightly and rest-day self-administered physical therapy. Such is the lot of aging climbers, but “Whatever keeps the car on the road” is the motto at this point.

“We’re gonna need a bigger bag!”

Well, the next climbing trip we’ll need even more room in the “PT Magic Bag,” since I’ll be bringing the newest offering from Wave Tools Therapy, their Riptide Sport Cupping Set. The Riptide set comprises four silicone cups (two large, two small) for cupping. Cupping entered the American consciousness (or at least my own) in 2016 at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, when Michael Phelps strode out to win another gold medal or five with strange red/purple welts visible on his body and the announcers had to explain why to a baffled public.

Wave Tools Therapy Riptide Sport Cupping Set
Loading up my cranky left arm (grumpy shoulder + tennis elbow + biceps tendinitis) with all four cups in the Riptide Sport Cupping Set. Using lotion, especially on convex/rounded parts of the body like the outer forearm, will help the cups adhere better.

It turned out cupping had been around forever, a practice noted in ancient Chinese and Egyptian medicine that had found its way into alternative-medicine and physical-therapy practices in the West. The idea, versus the down and in pressure of massage to relieve pain, sore joints, sore muscles, etc., is that cupping lifts the skin/muscle/fascia up and out, drawing blood into the problem area to promote healing.

For climbers, who are always dealing with sore this/sore that and tweaked this/tweaked that—often in areas that are hard to reach or activate, especially by yourself—the idea is appealing. And with tennis elbow/brachioradialis inflammation/biceps tendinitis in both arms, I was eager to give it a go.

Great success!

I’ve been using the cups for a few weeks now, with good results. My physical therapist at Bodywise PT wanted to wean me off the dry needling and e-stim I was getting on my arms, shoulders, and biceps, and suggested that I try the cups as an at-home way to promote healing between visits,  ideally prolonging the time between visits.

Wave Tools Therapy is a business founded by the climber/physical therapists Laura Schmonsees and Jeff Giddings, and they clearly know their stuff, being climbers themselves and having treated untold climbers in Colorado. During a trip to Bodywise, where Schmonsees works, she came in and showed me how to use the cups, either with the standard tension (by plunging them onto the skin) or with increased tension (by inverting then folding the cup edge back over). You can use the cups in three modes: static, where you put them on and leave them for a handful of minutes; dynamic, in which you put them on then drag them back and forth to break up adhesions; and for mobility, in which you put them on and actively stretch/move the affected body part.

Because I’m lazy and do my PT at night (Netflix + PT!), I’ve been using the cups mostly in static mode with max tension—also because I feel like with the deep-seated pain in my left arm, I want to leave them on longer in one spot, which is easier to do if I’m not moving. The big cups have glommed easily onto my biceps and shoulder, with their flatter surfaces and hairless skin. It’s a little tricker getting the cups on my brachioradialis/outer forearm, and I actually shaved off the hair and have been using lotion to get the cups to stick—the big guys stick better than the little guys, since their larger circumference bends around the convex curve of the arm. In any case, once the cups are on, they mostly stay on, which has been nice.

Post-Cupping Session
After 5 or so minutes of cupping, with the biggest welt visible on my shoulder, and smaller cup marks farther down the arm. These things have suction!

While the cups are activated, I’ve felt significantly less pain thanks to the suction action—sort of like pressing into your temple to help with a headache and getting that sweet Aaahhh of relief. It truly is a good feeling, especially after a hard day of climbing. And afterward, I haven’t noticed any increase in pain or discomfort despite the dramatic appearance of the welts (capillaries bursting) and light bruising you can get—and in any case these fade in a few days.

In terms of my healing trajectory, my feeling is that the cups have been keeping me on track. I’ve been trying a route with poppy, dynamic moves, including a crux deadpoint to a sloping left pinch—the kind of move I couldn’t have done eight weeks ago. But by coming home each night and cupping, I’ve been able to keep trying the climb. And my left arm continues to feel stronger and stronger, and less beset with pain, with each passing week as I stick with my exercises, cupping, and other rehab. Plus, I haven’t felt the need for a PT visit in a few weeks now–a positive sign, as I was having to go twice a week at first.

Cupping has been a low-hassle, low-stress, high-yield tool in the PT arsenal, and I look forward to continuing with it. The Riptide cups have been durable—the silicone is thick and bomber—and their plunging handles make them easy to slap on, move around (in dynamic mode), and pull off. Whether you’re injury prone or just an old goat like me, at only $33 they’re a worthy investment for home self-care.