Traditional Chinese Cupping

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.

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