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Many people are unfamiliar with the concept behind a cupping massage today. However, this concept has been around for quite some time. It’s an ancient Chinese way of detoxifying your body, which is why it’s great for anyone who’s suffering from a cold or otherwise has aches and pains in their body. Once you’ve received this non-invasive, truly relaxing massage you’ll actually feel more energized. Oftentimes it’s done right alongside of acupuncture so your body is fully restored to wellness. This is why practitioners really recommend it when you have a cold.
How a Cupping Massage Works
During this massage modality, a practitioner uses several glass or rubber cups. They suction seal these cups in place on your skin. This causes such a strong vacuum that your blood is forced to flow strongly in these affected areas where the cups were applied. At the same time, the cups force your tissue to release any toxins it has. These flow up and out of your body where they’re disposed of in a similar fashion as how acupuncture works. In fact, there’s an old Chinese saying that supports the use of traditional Chinese medicine, “Acupuncture and cupping, more than half of the ills cured,”
Scientific research backs this massage modality, linking it back to the ancient Chinese practice of Chi (energy). The idea here is that your body has thousands of small energy flows. These enrich our lives and keep us healthy. However, when they’re interrupted, we get sick.
The Chinese believe that with cupping you can get the blood flowing and the energy moving again. When this happens your body can start healing its wounds, reducing its infections, and detoxing its tissue. In comparison to many of the detox diets and herbal pill remedies in existence today, cupping is much safer. This is because these diets typically force you to starve yourself to remove the toxins from your body. With this in mind, you can also understand why a cupping massage is also much more relaxing.
Using Cupping Massage for Colds
When your blood flow is strong and you have good energy flowing through your body, it’s easier for your body to respond to invasive bacteria and viruses, such as the common cold. Cupping promotes this type of well-being in your body by removing any toxins in your body. Typically, these toxins would keep your immune system so busy that it couldn’t fight off any foreign invaders. Once they’re removed from your body you start feeling better. You’re also able to ward off any colds.
If you already have a cold when you go for a cupping massage, a strengthened immune system will help shorten the length of your cold. It will also help break up any mucus so it’s easier for you to dislodge. Overall, you’ll feel more comfortable.
Getting Your Massage
This really is a pain-free massage modality. While some people say they felt like a bug bit them sometimes, this isn’t unbearable but it may take you some time to get used to it. After your first few massages you’ll also have some round bruises on your body. However, as your body has less toxins in it, you’ll have less bruises – eventually you’ll have none at all.
The Olympics have now ended and another global event of fanfare and record-breaking is now in the books. While the games may have ended, one thing is still on everyone’s mind: what is cupping? The 2016 Summer Olympics made the practice famous as viewers and fans noted large circular discolorations on many of their favorite athletes’ bodies. Cupping took the Olympics by storm this year, particularly in swimming, but the practice is actually much older than these Olympics.
Cupping because in 300 AD in a book by a Taoist herbalist describing a number of “prescriptions for emergencies”. It referred to the use of bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin (today’s athletes likely used small glass cups instead). A practitioner can create the suction from the cups by lighting rubbing alcohol under the cup on fire and place it against the skin (the fire burns the alcohol but the change in temperature allows for a suction effect). This does not burn the skin, but just creates the suction effect.
Once the suction takes effect, the cup can be moved across the skin. This causes the muscle layer to slightly come up as the cup moves and creates upward pressure on the skin (as opposed to a massage which does the opposite). It often leads to a relaxing sensation, which is why so many athletes like it. The cups can be left on the skin for ten minutes or so once the suction starts as the patient relaxes.
The idea is that the movement of the muscle and the relaxation leads to increased blood flow and potentially better healing or function- similar ideas as those in support of massages. Some users like to combine cupping with other methods including massaging. For those especially inclined to eastern medicine, acupuncture is another popular option. Both acupuncture and cupping follow the lines of the meridians on the body as it strives to open certain ‘channels’ within the body.
While cupping was tremendously popular in the 2016 games, it continues to have its skeptics as do many forms of ancient healing. Medical professionals note the lack of scientific evidence on the effectiveness of cupping and attribute any benefit to perception or placebo. Athletes questioned on the matter did not seem to care, given the relatively low cost of the procedure and the impact the procedure had on their minds, which is a big part of competitive sports. Placebo effects may not be “real” against a comparator, but they are still real in terms of physiological impact- there is no doubt about that. If the swimmers actually felt it helped and experienced the placebo effect, then in turn their performance was enhanced as a result as well and one may argue that it was worth it. Nonetheless, more literature on the topic will likely emerge after the practice took the nation by storm this season. It will be interesting to see how the tactic of cupping holds up with time and in the face of new evidence.
Image credit: Sylvain Robin