What is Cupping and Why Are Olympic Athletes Going Crazy For It?

I had cupping as part of an Acupuncture Treatment that I was reiving when I was in Bali and seen as Olympic athletes are going crazy for it, I’ve dedicated a specific piece on the theory, my thoughts and how it made me feel.

My overall review of how I felt physically and emotionally after the series of treatments can be found in my review of Acupuncture but I’ve included my notes on how I felt about that particular acupuncture and cupping session on the day, especially for this review.

Cupping is an ancient technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine and it can be used as its own treatment or alongside acupuncture. The British Acupuncture Council states that it’s used to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body, which may be the reason why it’s being heavily used in the Olympics – all that work on those pumping muscles must require a lot of healing.

The cups are rounded and can be made of a variety of material, most commonly in the Western side of the practice, glass is used. To use the cups, the practitioner heats up the air inside the glass with a flame and then places the glass on the clients skin. Then the natural laws of physics prevail and a vacuum is created inside the glass, causing the skin to be sucked into it. It’s typical that multiple glasses will be used at any one time and they are left on the skin for up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind this method is that it supposed to reduce stagnation of ‘qi’ (energy) and also help draw out toxins. In the news however, it’s been reported that the athletes are using it to aid recovery from the physical aches and pains brought on by constant training and competing.

Red Dots

The Session

This was my fourth session of Acupuncture with Ben and as always it started off with some talk therapy which ended up being a roundup of how I was feeling at the time and how I felt about going home – I was leaving Bali that afternoon to slowly head home (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London). We talked about a recent mindset change that I’d experienced and how I envisaged moving back into the real world once I got home. It was evident that I was starting to come down with a cold which was probably a combination of working through all these emotions so intensely and a little bit of partying towards the end of my trip – I was squeezing in as much Bali fun as I could before leaving. Due to the cold, Ben suggested that I have some cupping as well as the acupuncture to help my body release toxins and move around some of my energy, seen as he’s the expert I agreed.

As I lay on on my back, on the acupuncture couch, Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists and then proceeded with placing some acupuncture needles. After he removed the acupuncture needles he asked me to turn on to my front and remove my upper body clothes so that he could put the cups on my bare back. He left the room whilst I did this and knocked before he returned to ensure that I was decent.

He explained the procedure of cupping and methodically started to place them on my back, one by one. Instantly I could feel the pressure of the sucking of my skin into the cups, it didn’t feel uncomfortable but it was a strange feeling. It reminded me of the feeling of being massaged when the therapist goes quite deep to stretch a certain area, however instead of my skin being moved across my body, it was being pulled outwards. There was a feeling of release as though some kind of space was being created within me, like a void was being created between the pressure of the skin in the glass and the muscles within my body. This feeling felt quite pleasurable but it was difficult to really tap into it because so much was going on. I could also feel that some cups had a slightly stronger pulling sensation than the others, but none of them were strong enough to cause any discomfort. The cups were left on my back for what felt like a considerable amount of time but in reality it was only about 20 minutes, for which time I tried to focus on my breathing.

When Ben came to take the cups away he told me beforehand and then proceeded to remove each glass by releasing the pressure at the side of the glass in what felt like a peeling motion, probably much in the same way that I’d remove a sucker off a glass windscreen. When all the glasses were removed he left the room to give me some space to get changed before coming back and asking me how I felt. We talked a little bit about my experience and also about what to expect in the next 24 hours – that I may be slightly tired. I already felt a little lethargic because of my cold and I was aware that after these treatments I can sometimes feel exhausted, but luckily, apart from getting a taxi to a hotel in the south of Bali I didn’t have much else planned.

Pre-session sense check (02 May 2016, 8am –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – I’d woken up with a head cold, which has been coming for a few days and is now in full force. I’m feeling tired, achy and without much motivation to do anything other than what is necessary. My head hurts, my eyes feel a heavy and my shoulders ache a little too.

Emotionally – I don’t feel that emotional, or I’m not connected with my emotions much today because my physical sensations are quite intense with the feeling of being a ill. I’m a little upset at having to leave Bali but I know it’s the right time so I also feel contempt too.

Post-session sense check (02 May 2016, 5pm –  7 hours after treatment)

Physically – I feel exhausted and my whole body feels really heavy, my movements are also sluggish. I just want to sleep. I have a weird sensation in my head, as though I had had a pressure build up that was now releasing but very slowly.

Emotionally – I’m feeling pretty fragile. I ended up crying when I got to the hotel, not for anything in particular but just because the tears were there and needed to come out. I feel quite numb to any sense of feeling, as though I’m a bit detached from them at the moment.

Overall Review

The sensation of having the cupping treatment was quite strange at first but overall I enjoyed the treatment. With regards to the ‘success’ of it, it’s difficult to review it individually as I had it as part of a series of acupuncture treatments, however those treatments overall were very beneficial for me because they released a lot of physical pain and also instigated a couple of strong mindset changes so overall I would say that it was effective. As with all holistic therapies, it’s difficult to scientifically measure them as the placebo effect could be having a very strong effect, and because I strongly believe in the meridian energy system which these treatments are based on then of course they are more likely to ‘work’. Whether or not they are proving as successful for the Olympic athletes is something that we’ll have to watch out for when we compare the medals and red spots – hardly scientific but worth a shot to find out. Personally I enjoyed the cupping treatment and would have it again but I think that it’s worthwhile to do your own sense check and reflection to see how effective it is for you.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

Advertisements

Can Traditional Chinese Acupuncture Assist in the Release of Emotional and Physical Pain?

I’ve had acupuncture before at a physiotherapist clinic and for the most part, it was good. It certainly helped me release some physical tension in my body and relaxed me somewhat but when I had Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, the effect was something completely different.

I stumbled across a good acupuncturist in Bali and for some reason the first time I came across him, I didn’t end up booking a session but when I ended up in his presence again (at Hubud, a co-working space in Ubud, Bali) I decided that this might be a sign and I booked a session – trusting my intuition here was the best thing I did because this treatment at that time brought around a whole mindset change. My Therapist for this session was Ben Elan who’s services include Narrative Counselling and Classic Chinese Medicine (Acupuncture and Cupping). He offers a very holistic care service with talk therapy, and energy work based on the intuition and agreement of client and therapist, the way I believe all therapies should be.

My review is set into three parts – description of the session, how I felt directly before and after the four sessions and my overall review.

The sessions

There were four sessions in total and they were spaced over a course of 4 weeks with a week between treatments. The first session lasted 90 minutes and involved a thorough consultation period, where I explained the physical pain on my left side, how long it had been there, significant life events, and of course the most recent traumatic events. Ben asked a series of questions and I answered them in as much detail as I could. As I’ve talked out the traumas and my life events so much I’m quite happy and open to explain everything and give a therapist as much information as they need so that they can use their experience and knowledge to assess how best to treat me.  After the initial 90 minute session, the following 3 sessions they took on average 60 minutes each, as the consultation period was more of a review of what had happened in the last week since the last session, however we would usually find that some additional life information would pop up and provide more of an insight to Ben and his decision of how to treat me for that session. Following the consultation period, I would lie on the massage couch, on my back while Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists one at a time. This usually took about 5 minutes per wrist and would give him an idea of how my energy was running through my body – not being an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine I don’t have much of a clue what this means, but when he explained to me what he could feel my pulse his assessments were a clear representation of how I felt inside. For example he explained that he could feel a haze, which is normal after trauma because it’s a way of protecting the body. That falls in toe with how I would sometimes feel completely numb to certain things, as though I was unable to access certain feelings. After this, Ben would tell me how many needles he would like to use and where he would like to place them and then he asked me if this was ok with me. Of course, it was, that’s what I was there for but it felt very empowering as a client to be asked if this was ok, something I always appreciate.

There were never more than five needles used and the number of needles depended on my current state of mind, my pulse and what Ben believed was safe and appropriate for that session. During one appointment he only used two needles because he was concerned that I might have a strong reaction if I had more than that, which wouldn’t be good if I wasn’t ready for it. “It’s like if you pull a scab off that’s not really healed underneath yet, the wound will just scab over again” he said. I liked that analogy and he was spot on because even with two needles I had a strong reaction after that session. It was a positive strong reaction but it felt very powerful, three needles might have overwhelmed me.

For those who haven’t had acupuncture before and might be concerned about the needles, I can assure you that they don’t hurt more than a light scratch. They’re not the type of needles used in syringes; in fact they’re a lot thinner, at most they feel like a scratch when they penetrate the skin and then there’s a somewhat dull ache when the needle hits an energy point. The needles would usually stay in for about 20 minutes, and then Ben would remove them and ask if I’d like a glass of water. Just like all therapies, it’s important to drink plenty of water to flush out toxins in the body once the energy (physical or meridian) has been moved around. After the session, we would usually have a chat about what I might expect to feel and he would assure me that I could contact him if I felt unsure about anything, which was really reassuring.

Throughout the four sessions Ben worked on a variety of things and having a sequence of sessions with one practitioner was really beneficial because we could reflect on how I’d felt the week after the treatment. During the first session he concentrated on my general energy flow and placed needles accordingly to see how I would react, I felt fine straight after and very relaxed that evening. During the second session he started to get a bit more strategically, I guess he had a good idea of how I was reacting to the acupuncture. For this session he concentrated on my left side on the pain that I regularly experience – the ‘heart protector’ area because the muscles there seemed tight and overworked (can you blame me after the year I’ve had??). After this session I was quite emotional and did have a few strong emotional releases throughout the week following this appointment. On the third session he simply placed two needles on my right wrist and elbow to help open up my heart energy flow and this is where I had the strong reaction. Straight after I was full of energy and in a very positive mood which lasted for quite a few days before I then had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, but I felt physically less tense and happy within myself, something which I had lost in all the numbness. The final session was a more of a general session to get my energy flowing and I also had some suction cups on my back because I was experiencing the beginning of a cold. Suction cups apparently help rid the body of toxins. After the final session I felt sleepy and exhausted, but that was probably more because I was becoming ill rather than the acupuncture, however processing all those emotions, at that intensity and speed probably was starting to tire me out after four weeks.

Pre-session sense check – (20 April 2016, the day before my first session)

Physically – At the start of the four sessions, I still had the grappling pain on my left side. The pain would stem from the back of my neck, across my shoulder, spreading across the front and back of my chest, under my arm and down my left arm, down to my ring finger. I’ve had the pain on and off for about 6 years, which was about the time that I started to feel unsupported emotionally (this ties in perfectly with what Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life has to say). It goes on and off but intensifies at times when I feel vulnerable or scared. Generally, I felt a little fatigued at the start of the 4 weeks but that’s something I was coming to accept after experiencing the emotional traumas – processing is exhausting.

Emotionally – I still felt like I was in a bit of a flux emotionally. Ok one minute then not the next, confused most of the time as to whether I was feeling clear headed or not, and in general still a little numb sometimes. During the time I was having the acupuncture sessions I was in a period of ‘time out’ to specifically work on process things as they came up and working on accepting and expressing my emotions. I was knee deep in a messy process and I wasn’t sure when I was going to be done so I was just taking things one day at a time, and Bali allows for this which I am grateful for.

Post session feeling – (23 May 2016 – 3 weeks after my final session date, 2 May 2016)

Physically – It was during the third session that I felt a physical release in my left shoulder. I had two needles in my right arm and they were placed strategically to help open up my heart – the physical pain that I was experiencing was from my heart being tightly protected (and who could blame me after everything that I’d been through). I remember this session vividly because after it I was full of energy and I felt like a whole weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt light again and I had forgotten what it felt to be like that, that pain that used to come on and off over the last 6 years has dissipated completely and it’s remarkable to feel so free from it.

Emotionally – Just before the last session of acupuncture I remember feeling like I was just bored of my trauma story now. I had a complete mind shift in the last week of the acupuncture sessions (and last week in Bali) and I felt like I was making decisions with a clearer mind, one that wasn’t so muddled up by emotional stories playing scare tactics in my brain. A mind that wasn’t fogged by emotions, judgements and should I or shouldn’t I. Since the last session I have felt more open, refreshed and comfortable in my own skin to the point where I feel like I can be here for others – a state which I haven’t felt for a long time.

Overall

I was having the acupuncture sessions during my last month in Bali and it was a time when I had decided to stay in one place and work through my emotions, so as well as having the acupuncture I was also talking through a lot of things, dancing and expressing myself creatively. However, I know that acupuncture has a strong effect on me and I think it was the tool that I needed to help speed up my recovery journey and get me to the point where I felt empowered to move forward to the next chapter of my life, whatever that may be (stay tuned). As well as working with a therapy that I know I respond to, a lot of this also comes down to the therapist and in this case I couldn’t have asked for someone more intuitive or safe than Ben. He has an air about him which creates a space of emotional safety and I could feel this from the moment that I met him, almost like that comforting feeling of someone you trust placing their hand on your shoulder. I found him to be professional and supportive throughout the treatments and the ability for him to hold space for himself and for me, his client was something that he was able to do very successfully. This is extremely important as a therapist because without this security then I client cannot relax into their hands, inhibiting their own recovery by holding back. Ben allowed me to feel safe enough to express my emotions and vulnerabilities fully, which I know aided my response to the treatment even more.

Acupuncture worked for me and I was lucky enough to find a very intuitive therapist which is key to any treatment. It’s something that is worth exploring and I would highly recommend it for someone who is going through any emotional or physical pain. Going to an acupuncturist who is also a trained counsellor was also very beneficial. I’m unsure as to whether all Traditional Chinese Acupuncturists are trained in counselling but it is definitely worthwhile finding one who is and arranging to have a series of sessions to allow for sense checking and reflections. Check out my 3 step guide to finding the right therapist if you’re ready to start your own healing journey.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x