In Beijing, it was popular –among westerners and locals alike – to be treated for a variety of ailments with cupping. One of my neighbors, Hilde, was a practitioner of this ancient Chinese medicinal art when she lived in her native country of Norway. While in Beijing, she became the recipient of cupping treatment when a massage therapist was unable to get deep enough into the muscle tissue to release the tension she was experiencing in her back. The photo above is taken shortly after the treatment.
Cupping has many purposes, but the people I know who have undergone this painful remedy have done so with hopes of reducing back and neck muscle pain, relieving migraines and managing anxiety. Another reason one may choose to undergo cupping treatment is to release the body from environmental toxins encountered in everyday life.
You may be wondering what, exactly, cupping entails? Hilde graciously explained it to me something like this: It is the practice of using suction to bring blood to the area of discomfort for healing and at the same time draw impurities and toxins to the surface of your skin so that they may be released from your body. You may do this in two ways, either using a cup and heat (fire cupping) or a cup and small hand pumps. In her practice, Hilde used the latter, which are pictured to the left.
For fire cupping, the practitioner briefly lights an alcohol-soaked cotton ball on fire under a small thick cup. He then extinguishes the flame when the oxygen is depleted and quickly places the cup on or near the area of discomfort. The result is suction under the cup that draws blood to the area so that localized healing may occur. The method using hand pumps works in a similar fashion. The pump draws out the oxygen and suctions the skin.
The dark spots that remain after the treatment are not bruises but rather the impurities in your body being discharged. As Hilda explained to me, “If your body has perfect circulation and is free of toxins or other contaminants, the spots are quite different in appearance. There is a red mark from the suction, but it quickly goes away after treatment. A therapist can easily see the difference.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners will place the cups on the meridians that run through the back. Many Chinese believe that cupping is able to restore blockages in “Chi” and restore the natural energy flow in your body.
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