Cupping: What it is and why you should try it
Cupping is a traditional Chinese therapy that’s been used for thousands of years, but it gained even more popularity in 2016 when everyone noticed that Michael Phelps had large perfectly round discolorations on his back while competing in the Olympics. Many people before that had never heard, or never been exposed to this type of bodywork. During a cupping session, the therapist may use cups made of glass, silicone, or plastic. The vacuum pressure is created with either a manual pump, electronic pump, or even fire. Every therapist is different in how they approach cupping and will adjust treatment to the needs of their client. Some prefer stationary cupping which means leaving each cup in place for several minutes. Others prefer to keep the cups moving to get a broader effect and reduce the likelihood of marks being left on the skin. And still others prefer a combination of both stationary and moving cupping.
Cupping can be used to decrease swelling by stimulating lymphatic flow and increasing superficial blood circulation. It creates negative pressure instead of positive pressure; so instead of pushing into those tight tissues in an attempt to separate and realign fibers, those tissues are being pulled apart. This offers a far less intense feeling of pressure and discomfort than a typical “deep” massage, but with similar effects. There are also many health claims in the world of cupping that say cupping can help get rid of cellulite, cleanse your body of toxins, help with fertility, and even help with wrinkles when used on the face. It is hard to confirm these claims as there hasn’t been much reliable research on the subject. Cupping is also difficult to run an experiment on, because it would be difficult to have a true control group. This would help to see the effects on those who have received treatment versus those who think they have received the treatment. When something has gained such popularity it’s hard to get down to the root of what it really does or can achieve.
Now that we’ve gotten the history of cupping and the claims made, let’s get down to why you should try it. Cupping is great for several reasons:
- It gets the blood flowing.
- It can help target a specific area of need.
- Those who struggle with the pressure of a normal massage may like the alternative of cupping because although it’s still pressure, it’s felt in a different way.
- Countless individuals (including me!) swear to the benefits of this therapy because we’ve seen the results over and over in ourselves and others.
Whether you are wanting to try cupping for the health benefits you feel it will bring you, or because you just want to see what all the hype is about, let’s talk about your goals and what you’re comfortable with when you book your next session. You may be pleasantly surprised with how much you enjoy it!
First Massage? What to Expect
For many, massage therapy isn’t really on the radar as part of routine healthcare. It may have just been something that was part of a spa gift certificate the family got mom for Mother’s Day or a splurge before a big event, like a wedding. But the massage industry has only grown over the last several years, and with it, a new public acceptance of massage therapy as part of a healthcare and self-care protocol. While it may seem a little intimidating to get your first massage, let me put you at ease by filling you in on all the details of what to expect.
Upon scheduling your appointment your massage therapist should ask you several questions that will help them understand your needs, and plan your session. This will allow them to gauge the pressure you might want, the areas of focus, the areas to avoid, and any medical issues that may affect your experience.
For your first visit, you’ll be asked to arrive to your session 10-15 minutes early to fill out some paperwork, including an intake form that covers your medical history, any pain or injury you may be experiencing chronically or just that day, and goals for your massage session. You’ll also need to sign some policy agreements so everyone is on the same page about professional conduct, booking requirements, and things like that. Your therapist will go over all of this with you and answer any questions you have before your session starts.
Once it’s time to start the massage, you’ll be informed of how to get ready to receive the most benefit from the specific type of treatment you’ve booked. To put it plainly, you’ll be told how much of your clothing to remove, but don’t worry, your therapist will leave the room and allow you plenty of time to get ready. I know it can be intimidating to think that only a sheet and blanket will be separating you from a stranger, but we’re professionals. Your modesty and comfort are extremely important to us. You will remain as covered as you’d like. Each area will be uncovered only to receive the massage and then recovered to keep you warm. Your groin and, in the case of women the breasts, will remain covered at all times. If for any reason, you feel uncomfortable at all, don’t be afraid to communicate your concerns. This is your time and your service, so your comfort level is of utmost important.
Along with your comfort comes the discussion of pressure. If at any point in the massage you need more or less pressure, please let your therapist know! We can’t read your mind, so it’s important for you to speak up if you need anything changed at all. This also goes for anything with the technique. The important thing to remember is that this is your time and it needs to be what you want. Whether that’s concerning the pressure, the music, the feel of the lotion or oil being used, the conversation or lack thereof, or anything else; let us know how we can make the experience great for you.
It’s normal in the beginning, especially during your first massage, to be a little tense, but try to allow yourself to truly be present and enjoy. Once your session is over, your therapist will step out of the room to let you come back to your senses and re-dress. Before you jump up off the table though, take a moment to breathe and soak in the feelings you’re experiencing; the looseness in your muscles, your calmed mind, and just the peace and quiet. You deserve it.