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Cupping Therapy Sucks!

cupping

cuppingI finally got to try out cupping therapy! While the practice dates back to 300 A.D. in Egypt, it was recently made famous by Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer, Michael Phelps, when he showed up on the starting block sporting baseball sized hickeys along his neck, shoulders, and back. Today it is most commonly practiced by Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncturists.

Suction cups of varying sizes are attached to the body, and the suction draws blood to the surface of the skin. Hence, the bruise-like marks. The treatment is said to pull the muscles away from the bone, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, thereby speeding up healing, reducing pain and easing muscle soreness. According to Dr. Houman Danesh, a pain management specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, cupping helps “jumpstart the body’s natural healing process.”

Practitioners will typically use plastic or glass cups. Oil is first applied to the skin to prevent excessive friction and pain as the flesh is sucked into the cup. The vacuum can be created in 2 different ways. 1. Simply pulling on a syringe-like pump to expel the air inside the cup. (This is the type that I experienced) 2. By lighting a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol and holding it inside the cup. When the fire burns out after consuming the oxygen inside the cup, the resulting vacuum creates suction. Skilled practitioners can use techniques to get the pressure just right for each patient and their condition. The cups can be left in place or slowly moved around, the latter of which is referred to as cupping massage; the effect being similar to that of a deep tissue massage. (This is the type that I experienced) Cups are typically left on for three to five minutes. The resulting raised and discolored welts left on the skin will typically vanish in a couple of days, just as with a typical bruise.

After a quick 5 minute back massage to rub in the oils, about 6 cups were then placed along both sides of my spine and across the back of my shoulders and neck. This felt just as you would imagine with some pulling pressure from the suction. When the practitioner began to drag the cups along my muscles, the pain became very intense. It seemed to be much more uncomfortable than an aggressive deep tissue massage. But I just focused on deep breathing and did my best to relax and trust the practitioner’s wisdom. After what seemed to be eternity, (more like 10-20 minutes), and almost having to “tap-out” and cry uncle, She removed the cups and laughed. I was relieved to have survived the treatment and excited to see how I felt over the next few days. The immediate raised bruising along my skin was really gross looking. The soreness along my back, neck and shoulders over the next few days felt like a bruise that was healing or the typical delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) from a killer workout. I have to admit, I did feel better in a few different ways. Like a weight had been lifted from my back and shoulders. Better range of motion and less tension just like I feel with Chiropractic Adjustments. I would recommend this specific practitioner to my patients who are more open to the “no pain, no gain” phenomenon and like to really feel the work physically. I would not recommend this to my patients who are very sensitive to aggressive pressures and overkill who prefer a more gentle touch. I know that there are many cupping practitioners available who can really cater to each patient’s request.

My wife recommended that I don’t share the photos of my back post treatment. She saved you from the grotesque imagery. The discoloration and raised marks fully recovered after 4 days. Emotionally I’m still suffering from the treatment. (Just kidding) As a Chiropractor, I always have fun trying out alternative healing practices. This way I can inform my patients when they ask about these other options as well as refer them to someone that I know and trust.

I tried out cupping therapy in Olathe at:

Therapeutic Massage

Address: 10420 S Ridgeview Rd, Olathe, KS 66061 

Proceed at your own risk!

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