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Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS

Author, Expert Board Member

  • Education: University of Washington, Bastyr University
  • Expertise: Physical Therapy, Orthopedics, Fitness

Bio:

Alex Stone is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA). He currently practices orthopedics in Bellevue, Washington, and manages an online health coaching business via social media (@dr.alexstone). He is passionate about health science education and general health/wellness optimization.

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Therabody Theracup Review

Is the Therabody TheraCup Worth It? An Expert Review on Performance and Value

We got a hold of Therabody’s cupper, used it, and are ready to tell you about it. Perhaps we will compare it to Achedaway’s device or not.

But is the Therabody TheraCup the first smart cupper? Not really. We reviewed the Smart Cupper by Achedaway in November 2021.

Bottom Line

After testing it ourselves, It suffices to say that this is an excellent cupper from a trusted brand. We are totally sold on the suction-heat combo (sprinkle in the vibrations to relax).

It’s not just a gadget you buy to try out; it does what it claims to do. It’s a great choice for amateur and pro athletes, physios, and physiotherapists, and it is also reasonably priced.

We are glad the Achedaway Cupper has competition now. We are hoping this drives the prices down further. Even so, they are fairly priced. Plus, you’re getting them from top brands.

FeaturesTherabody TheraCup
ProsHigh Quality
Powerful suction
Heating and Vibrations built in
Compact and Lightweight
Reasonable Price
ConsNo Bluetooth or App Control
WarrantyOne year
Retail Price$149.00
Where to BuyHere at therabody.com

Therabody had a very busy 2022; they released 8 new products—the most in a year. What were those? Did we review them? Maybe not all of them, but we mentioned some, or we will get to them eventually.

We enjoyed reviewing their massage guns (5 Gen Pro and 2 Gen Mini), but today, we’ll discuss their smart cupping device – the TheraCup. We’ll see how it performed during our tests.


a man setting a Theracup Heat And Vibration Cupping Device on his arm.
Therabody TheraCup in action.

Cupping Therapy Explained: How It Boosts Muscle Recovery and Relieves Pain

So what’s cupping? If you were part of the folk that was taken aback by Michael Phelps’s “gory-looking” marks on his back at the Olympics in Rio 2016, you are probably already familiar with cupping.

The Background

It’s an ancient Chinese treatment to loosen up fascia around your muscles. It is sort of the reverse of massage therapy, which works by pulling on the skin rather than pressing against it. Multiple cups are placed on the patient’s back, shoulders, or neck and left for a short while. The medical name for cupping is myofascial decompression.

If you don’t know what fascia is, it’s the connective tissue that holds muscles to the skin. The fascia tends to stiffen when the muscle is overworked (from exercise) or underworked (from a sedentary lifestyle).

Cupping can help release the pressure within these connective tissues.

There is a reason celebrity athletes love cupping. They are top-level performers that need to be in tip-top form to do what they do best. Apart from Phelps, we saw Conor McGregor with cupping marks early last year.

We’ve also seen the peculiar cupping marks on NBA players like Stephen Curry, Steven Adams, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. We also saw former New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison using the cupping method for his recovery routine.

This tells you just how popular (and definitely effective) the cupping therapy method is.

Cupping Therapy Benefits

  • Relieves symptoms of fibromyalgia
  • Lowers cholesterol levels
  • Treats acne and shingles
  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Improves sports recovery
  • Manages chronic pain

These are just a few areas in which people have reported relief after using cupping. But there are more proven benefits (backed by scientific studies) of cupping, including;

  • Relieving lower back pain – studies in 2015​1​ and 2017​2​ found cupping to be effective against chronic lower back pain. 
  • Helping in sports recovery – A minor study in 2020​3​ found that cupping can effectively improve hamstring issues like tightness and strains. 
  • Management of osteoarthritis pain – A major study in 2021​4​ found moderate evidence that cupping can help reduce osteoarthritis pain in the knee. This may be especially relevant for older adults who are struggling with symptoms of osteoarthritis but don’t want to have joint replacement surgery.

You can also check out more cupping benefits from our Achedaway Smart Cupper Review. 


Types of Cupping: Which Ones Does the TheraCup Use?

There are different types of cupping techniques used today. Some of these techniques may be new because of new technology. Some, however, are as old as the treatment itself.

Let us look at some of them.

Traditional, Fixed, or Static Cupping

This method uses negative pressure. One example is when a flame is lit inside the cup to suck out the oxygen. The cup is then quickly placed on the skin, creating a vacuum.

Another non-flame method (also negative pressure) is when pump cups are used; a pump is attached to the cup that sucks the air out.

a person's back with 8 traditional cupping therapy
Traditional cupping therapy.

Dynamic Cupping

This method incorporates both negative pressure and movements. It can take different forms.

For example, you can use rubber cuppers that create weak suction, allowing you to glide the cup over the skin (usually, the skin is oiled).

You can also use the more advanced smart cuppers that dynamically change pressure. The Achedaway Cupper utilizes this technique.

an achedaway cupper device with internal red light therapy on a person's skin
Dynamic cupping therapy using Achedaway Cupper – TheraCups’s main rival.

All these methods represent a type of cupping known as “Dry Cupping.” This type of cupping is non-aggressive. There is also “Wet Cupping,” where incisions are made over the Dry Cupping areas, and new cups are placed over the cuttings.


So, what about the TheraCup? 

The TheraCup promises vacuum cupping therapy via suction combined with heat to create a versatile, portable smart cupper.

However, it’s not just the heat and the suction; they have added vibrations for a soothing effect or to enhance tissue tension release.

In theory, it looks like a robust device – but is it?


Therabody TheraCup Review


Therabody TheraCup Specs

Therabody Theracup Specification
FeaturesTheraCup
Suction Intensity3 levels: 30 kPa, 40 kPa, 50 kPa
Heat Levels3 levels: 41°C (106°F), 43°C (109°F), 45°C (113°F)
Vibrations3 levels: 1800 / 2400 / 3000rpm
Battery Lifeup to 120 min
Cup Attachments3
Weight8 ounces (228 grams)
Dimensions3.7×3.7×2.83 inches
ProsHigh Quality
Powerful suction
Heating and Vibrations built-in
Compact and Lightweight

Reasonable Price
ConsNo Bluetooth or App Control
WarrantyOne year
Retail Price$149.00
Where to BuyHere at therabody.com
Therabody TheraCup Specifications

Design

The device comes in a tiny package – a small box measuring 6 x 6 inches. We noticed the new approach to packaging by Therabody; they reduced the plastic.

The device comes in a neoprene carrying pouch. Everything is inside.

The device already has a cup attached to it.

There are two extra cups—all different sizes. But the cups have the same height and outer diameter. The inside diameter, though, is different for each cup. These cups are meant to work on different muscles.

The cup diameters (inner) are as follows:

  • 35mm or 1.38 inches
  • 45mm or 1.77 inches
  • 55mm or 2.17 inches

In addition to the device and the cups, there is also a USB-C cable for charging the device and a basic manual in different languages.

a man's hand holding Therabody Theracup User Manual
You will only find a basic user manual.

It’s a very compact device, measuring 4 inches tall and 2.3 inches wide with the cup mounted. It’s also very light, weighing 8 ounces (228 grams) according to our scale. It has a quality feel, as you’d expect from Therabody. 

The cups are all made of transparent, tinted plastic, but they all look slick with nice rounded edges. The device feels nice to the touch. Even though it’s mostly plastic, it has rubber around it.

Therabody chose a simple minimalist approach here – nothing feels overdone. The blue rubber ring on top adds to the overall visual appeal.

Our Take

We like how compact the TheraCup is. The quality is great, and we feel it will serve us for a while. What’s even better, it doesn’t look fragile. When we first got a hold of the Achedaway Cupper, we feared what might happen if we dropped it. It’s not the case with the Therabody TheraCup – it feels sturdy. 

But we missed a few things that the Achedaway Cupper gave us. For instance, we miss the lanyard. The lanyard would’ve been great to keep the device in place and prevent it from falling when it automatically turns off (it may happen when the device is on your back).

Compared to the Achedaway Cupper, the TheraCup is taller, which doesn’t help to keep it stuck on the body at different angles. 

That said, we still like what we see with this device. We just wish they had added a few more accessories. It’s not just the lanyard, we’d hoped they’d include a sample of their CBD-based lotion.


How to Use the Therabody TheraCup

Here’s how to use this essential device:

  • Decide where you want to apply the treatment and place the cupper (choose one of 3 cups included with the device). 
  • Turn on the device using the On/Off toggle switch at the side (the device beeps when ready). 
  • Short-press the central button (the cupper indicator) to begin the suction. Press the button again to increase the suction level – there are up to 3 levels. 
  • The side buttons activate vibrations (the wave icon) and heat (the fire icon). These, too, have 3 levels. 
  • While the device works on your skin, you can adjust the suction, vibrations, or heat intensity to your liking. The 3 LEDs next to the buttons indicate the selected setting. 
  • If you don’t want to combine the suction with the vibration or heat settings, you can long-press the respective buttons to turn them off. However, you can’t use the complimentary settings without the suction. The suction is the main attribute of the device—it’s cupping, right?

How Does the TheraCup Perform?

Therabody promises three therapies in one device: suction, heat, and vibration. Let’s see how it performs.


The Suction

You’re probably wondering, how well does this thing perform? To give a straight answer, we’d say it performs pretty well. Here’s how the suction works.

There are 3 suction levels, as we just saw above. They are measured by strength as 30kPa, 40kPa, and 50kPa – or you can read them as 4.35psi (0.2 bar) to 7.54psi (0.5 bar).

What’s with the numbers? Do they mean anything?

Simply put, this thing produces pretty powerful suction. Even at the first level, the suction is robust. Once you’ve hooked it onto your body, there is no chance the device will fall off.

The last level can be pretty intense for ordinary folks – unless you are a demanding user, we advise sticking to the first two levels.

But can you do gliding cupping with the TheraCup?

Yes, we tried gliding the cup on the skin, but it’s quite a hassle. The suction is pretty tight, even at the first level, to allow the cup to glide smoothly.

But when we put some oil on the application area, the process was still sticky, but we had better success gliding the cup.

TIP: Just a heads up – it feels slightly painful when you try to force-glide the cup on the skin. 

But we are aware of people who love gliding the cup along the application area. We know that ladies especially love it to help get rid of cellulite. In that case, we believe there is room for an upgrade here—maybe even a new device with the same concept but slightly less suction to allow for gliding cupping. 


The Heating

There are 3 levels for the heating setting: 41 degrees Celsius, 43 degrees Celsius, and 45 degrees Celsius (106F, 109F, and 113F).

When the skin gets sucked into the cup, it touches the ceramic lining inside the cupper, which gets warm. It heats up pretty quickly, too – it takes about 10 to 20 seconds.

The feeling is fantastic – we have to praise Therabody’s execution here.

But the heating isn’t just to warm you up and keep you comfortable, it greatly affects the cupping process. Heating hastens the loosening of the fascia in the muscle and boosts blood flow to the tissues. 

The combination of cupping and heating brings back the good old flame cuppers. Unlike the Achedaway Cupper, the Therabody TheraCup doesn’t utilize red light therapy, but the heating component works great.


The Vibrations

Vibrations also enhance the effectiveness of cupping therapy. They penetrate deep into the tissue and help relieve tension.

But you’d need high-tempo vibrations for even better effectiveness, which the TheraCup doesn’t seem to have. Granted, they advertise 1800 to 3000 shakes per minute in the manual, but the vibrations are gentle (even to the third setting). They are not quite as effective as the suction-heating combo. 

We assume Therabody only included the vibrations to provide a soothing effect and help you relax.

But maybe Therabody really did want the vibrations to increase the intensity of the cupping therapy. If so, why make the vibrations so gentle?

If that’s the case, then we believe the intensity is lost along the cup – the vibrations have to travel from the top to the bottom where the cup meets your skin. We are guessing that’s where the vibrations may be lost.


Our Take

This is definitely a different device from the Achedaway Cupper we reviewed a while back. It’s not as robust as Achedaway’s concept, but we’ll give credit where it’s due; it’s a well-thought-out device.

Even though it doesn’t have dynamic suction or color-light therapy, it does what it’s meant to do well. The strong suction and the heating element stand out. It’s well-suited for sports recovery. However, it’s also great for routine body care.

The vibrations aren’t great enough to influence the therapy, but they provide a soothing feeling, which is nice.


Safety Features

The number of safety features Therabody chose to include here is amazing.

They include:

  • The auto-shutoff after 3 minutes indicates that you need to move the device to a different spot. 
  • Pressure detection – the device automatically shuts off when the vacuum pressure exceeds 60 kPa. 
  • The device also monitors heat levels
  • There is a warning when you select the highest suction level
fingers holding Theracup Controls Panel - top view
Intuitive control panel.

Is there Bluetooth Connectivity and an App?

Well, this may be somewhat surprising, but Achedaway beats Therabody here. This TheraCup doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity.

The Achedaway Cupper has an app you can use to control the device – especially when using it on your back. It proved to be a handy feature.

Let’s hope Therabody thinks about connectivity for future TheraCup iterations.


Battery

We don’t know the battery’s capacity, but the device can last 120 minutes on a full charge.

However, if you use high-level suction and too much heat, you might not get enough juice for 2 hours. Even so, the treatment per spot takes only a few minutes; two hours will be enough to treat a large area. 

Kudos to Therabody for making this a USB-C charging device – you can charge it using a power bank. We’re assuming there isn’t too much juice to recharge because it takes 1-2 hours to charge the device fully.

The charge indicator is simple. It lights green when fully charged, blue when mid-charge, and orange when low charge. The light flashes when charging and turns solid green when fully charged. 


Cleaning

Cleaning is not an issue. The shape of the cups makes them easy to clean. They are removable, too.

You can read the cleaning instructions in the manual. Use a clean cloth to clean the device and the cups. You can also use soap and water to clean the cups


Pricing and Warranty

One device costs $149, while a double pack costs $279. A 6 pack will peg you back $799. We believe the price is fair for what you’re getting here.

You may want to try the X8YZF10 promo code at checkout to save a few bucks. This coupon only works at therabody.com.

The device has a 1-year warranty; you get 90 days cover for the cups.

But you can’t put it past Therabody to charge exorbitantly for their devices. The competition offers similar devices but at fair prices. You can check the alternative below.


Therabody TheraCup vs. Achedaway Cupper

Therabody Theracup Vs Achedaway Cupper

The Achedaway Cupper is the only viable alternative to the Therabody TheraCup we know of. It’s a proven device that’s been on the market for over three years and has gathered many positive reviews, including ours.

Let’s clash it with the new TheraCup device:


Different Sizes

The Achedaway Cupper is flatter and shorter and will stick on the body better vertically (relative to the ground – for instance, when you put it on your back while standing). Also, the Achedaway Cupper has large cups.

However, TheraCup’s smallest cup is great when using it on smaller muscles.


Performance

The Achedaway Cupper offers a slightly different proposition to the Therabody TheraCup. We’d say it’s slightly more robust.

The suction is dynamic, which means the pressure fluctuates to move the skin up and down. This effectively increases blood supply to the tissues and helps to release toxins faster. The TheraCup can’t do this.

Instead of direct heat, the Achedaway Cupper utilizes red-light therapy, which has proven benefits but doesn’t vibrate.

How does the suction compare to Achedaway?
The Achedaway Cupper has a wider range, from 20 kPa to 60 kPa, and up to 5 levels. This makes the Achedaway Cupper stronger at higher levels.

Can the Achedaway Cupper glide comfortably?
Theoretically, we believe it should be easier to glide the TheraCup than the Achedaway Cupper. Since the strong suction hinders the gliding and the Cupper is stronger, moving the Cupper along the body might be harder. Practically, though, it feels about the same as TheraCup.


Connectivity

The Achedaway Cupper can be controlled via an app. It also has a lanyard that makes it easier to use than the TheraCup. 

achedaway cupper  on a table while a man uses app on his phone to control the cupper
The Achedaway Cupper can be controlled via an app.

Battery

The battery on the Achedaway Cupper seems to last longer than the one in the Therabody TheraCup. It has a capacity of 1800 mAh and lasts 2-3 hours. Even so, the Cupper is lighter than the TheraCup—it weighs 215 grams. 


Price

The prices are similar. Use the MGA25 code to get $25 off on the Achedaway Cupper, which also has a one-year warranty.


Our Take

Both are excellent smart cuppers.

The Achedaway Cupper’s killer feature is the dynamic suction. It’s also slightly more robust than TheraCup and has better equipment and accessories (including an App).

However, the heat component of the TheraCup stands out too.

It’s tough to pick a clear winner here. But depending on what you want your treatment to look like, either device can be the winner. We recommend trying them both if you can. It’s a draw!


Until next time!


Our Therabody TheraCup Rating

  • Quality
  • Effectiveness
  • Usability
  • Accessories
  • Price Value
4.4

Summary

The Therabody TheraCup is an excellent smart cupping massager with a lot to offer. It certainly offers competition to the already thriving Achedaway Cupper. The suction-heat combo makes it unique. The price point is attractive, and the overall quality is top-notch.

Sending
User Review
4 (14 votes)

FAQ: Cupping Therapy Essentials

What does cupping therapy do?

Cupping therapy is an ancient Chinese treatment that uses pulling on the skin rather than pressing against it to loosen the fascia around the muscles.

It helps muscle recovery by releasing pressure within the connective tissues and promoting blood flow.

What are some proven health benefits of cupping therapy backed by scientific studies?

Cupping therapy is known to provide numerous health benefits. It can help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, lower cholesterol levels, and treat skin conditions like acne and shingles.

Additionally, suction cup therapy is beneficial for relieving muscle tension, improving sports recovery, and managing chronic pain. Many people find it effective in alleviating lower back pain and even reducing heavy metal levels in the blood.

These benefits have been reported by users and supported by scientific studies, making cupping a valuable therapy for promoting overall well-being and muscle recovery.

What are the negatives of cupping?

Cupping therapy might have a few drawbacks/side effects. For starters, it can leave marks on your skin that take time to fade or even cause scarring. If not done right, it may result in burns, infections, or worsening skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis.

Some rare but severe side effects include bleeding in the head after scalp cupping or anemia from blood loss after multiple wet cupping sessions.

Additionally, people might experience pain or discomfort during the procedure, which may not be effective for everyone or every condition, so it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Is cupping therapy painful?

Cupping therapy might feel a bit weird at first, but it’s usually not painful at all. When you’re getting it done, it kinda feels like your skin is being pulled or tugged on, but most people can handle it just fine.

You might end up with funky-looking bruises or marks on your skin afterward, but they go away quickly and shouldn’t hurt too much. Make sure you talk to your therapist during the session and let them know how you’re feeling so they can make any adjustments. No worries—it’s all part of the experience!

Why can’t you shower after cupping?

After a cupping session, avoiding showering for a few hours is a good idea. Your skin has been through some stuff during the treatment, like being pulled and stretched, and the pores are a bit more open than usual.

If you hop into a hot shower right after, it might irritate your skin or cause the marks to take longer to heal. Also, your body’s still doing its thing to eliminate toxins that the cupping helped move around. Giving it a little time before getting wet helps the process and keeps your skin happy.

Which famous athletes have been seen using cupping therapy for muscle recovery?

Michael Phelps, Conor McGregor, Stephen Curry, Steven Adams, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harrison are some of the well-known athletes who have used cupping therapy for muscle recovery.


References
  1. 1.
    Yuan Q, Guo T, Liu L, Sun F, Zhang Y. Traditional Chinese medicine for neck pain and low back pain: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2015;10(2):e0117146. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117146
  2. 2.
    Wang Y, Qi Y, Tang F, et al. The effect of cupping therapy for low back pain: A meta-analysis based on existing randomized controlled trials. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2017;30(6):1187-1195. doi:10.3233/BMR-169736
  3. 3.
    Warren A, LaCross Z, Volberding J, O’Brien M. ACUTE OUTCOMES OF MYOFASCIAL DECOMPRESSION (CUPPING THERAPY) COMPARED TO SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE ON HAMSTRING PATHOLOGY AFTER A SINGLE TREATMENT. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2020;15(4):579-592. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33354391
  4. 4.
    Choi T, Ang L, Ku B, Jun J, Lee M. Evidence Map of Cupping Therapy. J Clin Med. 2021;10(8). doi:10.3390/jcm10081750

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Post Update History

Here's a quick rundown of all the tweaks and edits we've made to this article to keep it accurate and up-to-date!

Current version.

November 7, 2023 Minor linking fixes. (Author: Greg)

April 27, 2023 An informative FAQ section was added, offering clear answers to most common cupping therapy questions. (Author: Greg)

April 26, 2023 Medically reviewed by Dr. Alex Stone, DPT, CSCS.

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luke massagegunadvice

Luke Deszczulka

luke massagegunadvice
Luke Deszczulka

Hi! I'm Luke, a Biomedical Engineer with a passion for sports. I'm a lead reviewer for massage guns and wellness tech products at Massage Gun Advice. Alongside a dedicated Experts Board, I ensures each review is the result of thorough testing, in-depth research, and rigorous fact-checking, providing our readers with reliable and comprehensive insights.

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