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Since I grew up in Asia, I’m sure no one is surprised that I’m open to trying Eastern medicine-based therapies like cupping. I’ve had some severe shoulder and neck pain recently that restricted my range of motion and didn’t seem to be improving with stretching and heat. I knew Michael Phelps had used cupping during the Olympics for recovery, and I’ve also had several friends share their positive experiences about how cupping helped relieve chronic pain, so I thought it was worth a shot.
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What exactly is cupping therapy and what does it do?
Basically, glass cups that are shaped like fat light bulbs are placed on the problematic areas on your body using heat to suction them in place and draw blood to the area. It is thought that this helps to loosen the muscles, release toxins, reduce soreness and speed up the healing process. I made an appointment with Heather of Paradox Wellness here in Greensboro and was so thankful she had availability the very next day. When I arrived, I was greeted by her assistant Jasmine (the sweetest fur baby pictured below).
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Heather made me feel at ease as we discussed the pain I’d been having and my history of injuries. She explained what cupping would entail and what to expect afterward. I also learned that she performs cupping after her acupuncture treatments since they are complementary therapies that work best together.
Her office was full of essential oils and many options for Chinese herbal remedies as well. She uses the Chinese herbs in conjunction with the acupuncture and cupping as part of a holistic treatment plan. You can see the cups she uses on the middle shelf in the photo above.
Once I got set up on the massage table, she started applying the cups to my shoulders, back and neck and she noted there was a color difference in the area where I was having more pain. The Chinese theory is that the more blood stagnation that exists in an area, the more bruising that will occur in the area that was cupped. I was worried it would be painful, but I didn’t find it to be uncomfortable, just strong pressure. She moved them every minute or so and eventually cupped my whole back. After the treatment was done, she instructed me to drink plenty of water and to take an Epsom salt or Magnesium Chloride float if possible. I knew the bruises would be highly visible, but when I got home and showed my husband, his response was “did you get attacked by an octopus?!?” Haha. It looks like either that or a polka dot tattoo. Purple is in this season, right?
The day after the treatment, I felt a little sore and quite exhausted at first. All I wanted to do was sleep in the morning, but in the afternoon, my energy came back in a strong way and I was suddenly very motivated to get a lot of things done! The range of motion in my neck and pain in my shoulder improved somewhat as well, so for me, it was an effective treatment, and at only $35, much cheaper than a massage. I’m already looking forward to going back to Heather to try acupuncture and additional cupping to compound the healing effects.
Thanks for reading about my latest adventure into the alternative therapy realm. Have you ever tried cupping or something similar? If you’re curious about trying it, I’d recommend doing so in cold weather or during a month when you don’t plan to be donning a bathing suit.
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I’m open to trying this should I ever experience chronic pain especially since I have a physiotherapist friend certified in the technique, but gosh.. those marks look scary.
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They are kind of freaky looking! I don’t think everyone gets marks as dark as I did – I had a lot of stagnation going on.
How long did they take to disappear?
I think around a month to be completely gone for me
I’m interested in trying this out since I also suffer from upper back pain, but the marks after cupping seriously freak me out. Do they take long to disappear?
– Laura // afinnontheloose.com
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Mine took maybe a month but I think my skin is more sensitive than most. Others disappeared in a week for some of my friends
Those marks look terrifying but kind of cool at the same time! I’m so glad it was an effective treatment for you!
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Yeah, they look really awful but thankfully they were not painful!
And the results two or three days after? Any different than the day after? I am open to any sort of treatments if they’ll help. Hopefully your issues have resolved now. Thanks for sharing.
The positive effects lasted for a few days from what I remember. I think perhaps they compound if you come in for multiple treatments but I’m not sure as I’ve found massage more enjoyable since then.