I have an embarrassingly low pain-threshold and I bruise like a peach! So when a friend suggested that I try cupping to relieve chronic back pain, I was nervous too say the least.
“It’s normal to be nervous about any new experience,” says natural health practitioner, Carla Raleigh. “Cupping can be a very revitalising health treatment though, and its complementary to modern Western medicine.”
Cupping involves placing warm glass cups over your body, which creates light to moderate suction around the targeted areas.
“The suction created by cupping encourages movement through layers of soft tissue, dispersing static blood, lymphatic congestion and other toxins that accumulate in your body,” says Raleigh.
In turn, this process releases muscular knots and improves your circulation – allowing oxygen, blood and fresh nutrients to flow into pain-affected areas.
Most first-time cuppers want to know whether the treatment hurts, so I’ll tell the truth. As Carla applied the cup, I felt an immediate squeezing sensation as my skin and underlying tissues seized upwards. This squeezing sensation was uncomfortable for about a second, before my body relaxed again.
“Sometimes cupping can result in localised bruising, but for most people, these bruises will dissipate in less than one week,” says Raleigh. My bruises were purple and red, so I wore a shirt that covered my back, and the bruises had completely disappeared after five days.
Cupping can be considered the opposite to massage. While massage focuses on applying pressure, cupping uses reverse pressure to pull and expand the body’s soft tissues.
Some faded bruises following a cupping treatment. Their bark is worse than their bite!
Both massage and cupping offer the benefits of pain relief and relaxation. However, cupping targets deeper tissues and its healing effects are often felt for longer.
“Even though cupping has its roots in ancient China, today many Australians are discovering this treatment can relieve pain throughout almost every part of the body,” says Raleigh.
Problem areas that are normally targeted by cupping include the neck, back, shoulders, legs, hips and the iliotibial band. (The iliotibial band is a thick band of connective tissue running from the thigh, through the hip, to the knee. Cupping allows the iliotibial band to be gently stretched, as otherwise it’s quite difficult to treat.)
During my treatment, Carla slid the cups up and across my back, creating a massage-like effect. This practice is called ‘slide cupping,’ whereas 'static cupping' means the cups are left in place.
“Cupping can also be combined with other alternative health treatments, such as acupuncture and reiki, for a holistic approach to pain relief,” says Raleigh.
If you’re thinking about cupping, I’d say give it a go! For me, cupping has been an effective way to tackle back pain, and I’ll definitely be back for more!