How do you relieve stress? Yoga? Massage? A pint of ice cream? Whatever you do to cope with a crazy work week or the hectic schedule of being a mom, you might consider cupping. It’s been around for thousands of years, but it gained newfound popularity this year when Olympic athletes, most notably Michael Phelps, brought it to the international stage.
What is it and how can it improve your health?
Chinese medicine practitioners have been using cupping for thousands of years to treat a wide range of health problems. It is designed to help the body reduce inflammation by using suction. Think of it kind of like getting a massage in reverse.
What is it used for?
“Cupping can help athletes relieve muscle tension and tightness, but it can also help anyone with pain, stiffness or breathing problems,” says Dawn Powell-Londono, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist who practices cupping at SCL Health.
How does it help?
In Chinese medicine, pain is viewed as stagnation or something that isn’t moving. “If you have an injury, the swelling sometimes just sits there, or if you have arthritis, the inflammation doesn’t go anywhere,” says Powell-Londono. “Cupping can help the body reabsorb the fluid and move the swelling out of the area.”
What does it look like?
Cups used in cupping look like glass or plastic snow globe-like balls that range in size from three-quarters of an inch to four inches in diameter. They’re placed on the skin while air is removed by a pump or by lighting a flame inside of the cup to create a small vacuum.
Is it painful?
Cupping doesn’t hurt, but it may leave a temporary mark. Powell-Londono says the practitioners at the Olympics were more aggressive with the suction than she normally uses on her patients. “It’s not painful, but every once in a while, there’ll be redness that occurs called a ‘sha’ reaction,” she says. “If you have a lot of stagnation in the area, you may see some of that reaction, but it won’t be quite as dark as the spots that Michael Phelps had.”
How do I get started with cupping?
Patients can come in as often as two to three times a week for cupping, but it’s usually used in conjunction with acupuncture. “Cupping is a great adjunct because you can feel better faster, whereas with just acupuncture, you’ll feel better, but it might be a couple days later,” she says.
Interested in cupping? Request an appointment.