My friend Eva (who you might remember I interviewed for Whiskey with a West Virginian) recently posted that she has started offering cupping as part of her massage therapy business, and she basically just needed some guinea pigs. Because I’ve always been curious about cupping, I messaged her and made an appointment.
If you aren’t familiar with cupping, it’s a procedure where glass jars are used to create a vacuum and suck the skin into the cup as a countermovement to massage. Eva explained to me that when you get a massage, that tissue is compressed and lactic acid and congestion in our systems are released from the muscles. With cupping, it is the opposite motion, so the skin is pulled upward and the lactic acid and chemicals within your body can be pulled to the surface to help detox your system. It can help balance your pH levels, and by drawing the blood to the surface, fresh blood can then flow through your body once the cups are released. Traditionally, cupping was used with some sort of heat that creates the vacuum under the cut, but today, many massage therapists use a pump that is attached to the top of the cup and pulled the air out of it.
Many athletes have been known to use cupping for performance and relief in their overworked bodies. The first time I saw an athlete with the cupping marks was Michael Phelps at the Olympics, but I’m sure there have been plenty of others. I was more interested in it for inflammation reasons, and issues that I face with having multiple sclerosis.
Before she began applying the cups, Eva massaged my back a bit to identify where the cups might need to be placed, and applied some essential oils so the cups would not pull too much on my dry skin. I informed Eva that my lower back had been killing me lately, and that I always have tension and pain around my shoulders, so these were the ares she focused on when applying the cups.
The sensation is very weird, but as Eva told me would happen, my nervous system kicked in after a few minutes and you start to calm down even through any discomfort. There was never any real pain, but it feels exactly as you would imagine your skin being pulled into a jar. After a while, the sensation dulls down and I forgot where exactly each cup was placed.
The cups don’t stay on for very long — I’m not sure but I would say about 5 minutes each. As she released each one, I felt more and more relaxed and limber. Eva told me that when I sat up, I would probably immediately feel looser in my back, and I totally did. I also felt very energetic for the rest of the day, even when traveling for work.
Eva told me that the deeper the cups pull, the more those areas need my attention. She told me that the cups around my kidneys and adrenals pulled really deep, which would account for my fatigue and constant caffeination.
The marks I have on my back now just look like perfectly round hickies, and Eva said they will fade within a week or so. The don’t hurt at all, but my back did feel a bit tender the next day, almost like when you’re about to get the flu and your body aches, which I read can be a result. I also felt like I really needed to sleep this weekend, and slept nine hours both Friday and Saturday night. This, too, can be a result of the procedure.
Since being diagnosed with MS, I am more interested in natural forms of medicine, because the idea of taking medication for the rest of my life is really disheartening. Even though this was something I was really just curious about, I would absolutely do it again, especially paired with massage therapy. It’s difficult to remember to take care of myself sometimes, but by implementing these practices, paired with my yoga practice, and a relatively healthy diet (don’t get it twisted, I had beer and pizza two nights last week), I feel like I have some control over the well-being of my body and how I feel, in spite of my MS.
If you’re a local, definitely contact Eva for an amazing massage or cupping experience. She’s the best.
Do something to take care of yourself this week!