I’ve been wanting to try cupping for a long time, mainly out of curiosity. I remember a few years back when Gwyneth Paltrow walked the red carpet with fresh cupping marks, and most recently Lena Dunham and Justin Bieber have also been sporting these infamous bruises. I understand that these are probably not the best people to emulate, but it still didn’t stop my curiosity for this unique practice.
So I wondered to myself, why is everyone doing cupping? Well for one cupping is believed to help with a variety of physical ailments from body aches, muscle pain, and even acne and cellulite reduction. It acts as if it is an inverse massage pulling the muscles and blood vessels upwards. This causes the blood vessels to mobilize in one central area facilitating blood flow and healing that problem area much faster.
I personally was drawn to cupping for the relief of body aches that are mainly caused by my poor posture when sitting up on a computer (I blame blogging for this) Also, my calf muscles have been kind of wonky cramping on and off ever since my track days had ended, so I wanted that addressed as well.
I sought the help from one of the most famous salons in Chicago, George the Salon. Located in the Gold coast, George the Salon is credited for regularly pampering the rich and famous. They’ve recently been named ELLE Magazine’s Top Salons in the US. When I saw that they had an alternative medicine specialist, I jumped at the opportunity to live my long life dream of cupping. Dr. Sunil Pullukat of Chicago Sport and Wellness is the in-house specialist and comes with tons of expert experience in the fields of alternative and sports medicine.
Before we jumped right into the cups, we started my session with a deep tissue massage. Like any cupping session, it is best to pair the practice with another type of treatment to best compliment it. Sometimes cupping can be paired with acupuncture but in my case there was a deep tissue massage. The massage lasted about 15-20 minutes. It was much needed as my muscles were very tense. This allowed my body to warm up and get comfortable before my skin had the life suctioned out of it with cupping (just kidding it wasn’t that dramatic)
Dr. Sunil placed 6 cups on the problem areas of my back. These areas were the the lower trap, middle trap, and upper trap. This was a dry cupping session meaning that only suction was used. This is opposed to wet cupping which is way more intense and blood is involved. I can be quite daring at times, but I draw the line at blood. The suction was created by a pump, as opposed to the traditional fire cupping. When I googled cupping a lot of scary images popped up and those scars and burns were from the effects of fire cupping gone wrong. It should be noted that if you choose to see a traditional Chinese medicine doctor, then fire cupping may be used. A lot of modern practices now use the suction which is a lot safer because the administrator can control the power of the suction.
Since this was my first session, the pressure on my cup wasn’t too tight. I’ll admit that at first the suction was uncomfortable but then you quickly adjust because it creates a soothing tingling sensation. I would describe the initial feeling like an aggressive pinch. Dr. Sunil also applied a menthol like lotion, which helped relieve the pain so that may be a contributing factor as well. Once I adjusted to the initial pressure of the cups Dr. Sunil then upped the ante to increase the blood flow to that area. The cups lay on my back for about 15 minutes as Dr. Sunil waited for my skin to turn a purple-reddish color. I’ll admit I had my reservations because since I’m black I don’t turn color as fast so I didn’t want the cups to be on for too long. To my surprise, my back did in fact, turn colors and I had a parting gift of a reddish purple hue on my back. And even though I’m darker in skin tone, this didn’t mean the cups had to stay on for an exceptionally long time.
Getting the cups suctioned off of my back felt like a relief, but the real pain began once the cups were off my back. Throughout the next few days, my back was incredibly sore but it was tolerable. However, I will say that I no longer have random cramps in my calf muscles but it is because of the deep tissue massage applied to my legs.
Of course with any treatment or procedure, one should always wait till after a few sessions to make some judgments. As of now, I can’t tell the immediate effects of cupping, but I think it’s definitely worth checking out if someone wants to try and dabble in alternative forms of medicine. Of course always consult with a doctor ahead of time before undergoing any type of treatment.
So would I do cupping again? As of right now the short answer is no. That is only because I have to have my back out kind of frequently for formal events and gowns and I’d rather not have such visible bruising. It was soothing in practice, I could just do without the days of an aching back. In the future when my skin is no longer youthful and glowing, I’ll probably consider cupping to get rid of unsightly cellulite, but I’m praying that we never get to that point. However, I’m extremely open to acupuncture which is also available at George the Salon.
Special thanks to George the Salon and Dr. Sunil for giving me my first foray into the world of cupping. If you want to learn more about cupping I suggest you check out WebMd.com’s guide to cupping.
UPDATE: After revisiting this post which I wrote less than a week ago. I can now give an accurate assessment of cupping. My back no longer has random aches and it does feel loose and less tense. The soreness lasted a total of 3 days and once it subsided my back felt more relaxed. I can even do backbends!
P.S-The below pics are graphic according to some. Some of my friends reacted in curiosity when I showed them, others were utterly appalled and disgusted with the images of cups suctioned onto my back. Everyone reacts differently so I don’t want to offend. So for those who are interested, here is the process of cupping.