Last Friday, as a birthday treat, I took myself for an afternoon of pampering. I had a luxurious facial and a massage. While we were getting set up for the massage, the masseuse asked whether I’d be interested in trying cupping therapy. I was a bit hesitant, but I decided to give it a go.
When I lived in Melbourne, massages were a guilty pleasure of mine. I used to get at least one a week. My attraction to massages sprang from my constant struggle with pain. I have had problems with my lower back and hips for years. I get strong, aching pains in my hips regularly. This gets much worse after long car trips or if I haven’t had time to exercise. I also get terrible tension headaches, which are caused by muscle stiffness in my neck and shoulders. The pain is immense, and will put me out of commission for the whole day. The massages I would get in the city helped with these pains, but only for a day or so.
So you can imagine why I was so eager to give cupping a try. I was ready to sample anything that might relieve my aches and tension.
The cupping technique uses glass cups to apply suction to certain areas of the body. The cups are placed over the areas where pain is present, and then the air is sucked out of the cup through a valve at the top. This pulls the skin and tissue into the cup. It allows the massage to penetrate deeper into the tissue, as well as encouraging blood flow and lymphatic drainage.
My masseuse was really kind and thorough. She started off our session by asking me lots of questions about my lifestyle, and the type of pain I usually get. Then she began with a light massage. This was followed by a firmer massage of the areas where I had the most pain.
After this, the masseuse used a ‘glider cup’ on my back and hips. The glider cup is placed on your body and moved about. It was rather painful, but not unbearable. I could feel a strong suction in the areas where the cup touched, and a searing pain when it moved over the sorest spots. Then, the regular cups were applied.
The masseuse applied four or five cups at a time. She started by applying them to my lower back, my hips and my thighs and then moved further up my back. Each cup was carefully positioned, and then a hand-pump was used to suck the air out. Some of the cups stung quite badly when they first went on, but after a few moments, the pain subsided and I completely forgot about the cups. The cups were left on for about ten minutes, and then another set were applied to a different area.
Once all the cups were removed, the masseuse gave me a deep-tissue massage. Already, I could feel that my muscles were less tender. Once she was finished, I got dressed and left.
It’s been five days since my massage, and I haven’t had even a hint of a tension headache. My hips and lower back feel better than I ever remember them feeling, and I haven’t had a twinge of pain in days. It’s been brilliant.
It hasn’t all been a bed of roses though. The day after the massage, my muscles felt a bit stiff, similar to the way I feel the day after a particularly taxing run. I had been warned that this might happen, because the cups and massage penetrate quite deeply into your muscle tissue. I combated this by drinking loads of water and taking a hot shower, and the stiffness abated pretty quickly.
I’ve also got some marks and bruises on my back from the cups. Once again, I’d been warned about this. The marks are caused by the suction from the cups, and the blood being drawn to the surface. It’s kind of like having a series of giant hickies all over your back. Here is a picture of my back a couple of hours after the massage:
Five days later, I still have some faint marks on my back, but they’ve faded considerably. Even though they look pretty awful, the marks didn’t hurt, although some of the darker ones were rather tender the next day.
I would certainly have another cupping massage. The massage seems to have made a huge difference to my back pain and tension headaches. When booking a massage, make sure that you go to a licensed practitioner. Be sure to tell them if you have any particular areas that you want them to focus on or avoid. Also, I wouldn’t recommend having a massage a few days before a big event, because you might find it awkward to explain why your back is covered in red rings. Overall, it was a really great experience.
Have you ever had a cupping massage? Would you have one?
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