My introduction to cupping came via Gwyneth Paltrow. Remember when she showed up for a red carpet with circle marks all over her back? Well that was cupping. I know because the entertainment outlets went nuts reporting about the ancient alternative therapy — and painted her as a bit of a freak for intentionally bruising herself. I remember thinking: If health-nut Gwyneth is a fan, it must have merit. And it does.
Fast-forward and cupping is now not only offered by chiropractors and acupuncturists, it’s a bona fide spa treatment with a long list of reported benefits: it boosts blood flow and lymphatic drainage to ease aches and pains, increases range of motion in tight muscles and joints, aids digestion and calms the nervous system. It’s also said to unblock stagnant energy… and get the qi flowing. So I booked myself a 50-minute appointment at The Centre for Well-Being at The Phoenician. Let the healing and qi-flowing begin!
Traditionally cupping places heated glass bulbs via suction to the back, but The Phoenician has a modern spin. Larry, a 25-year massage veteran who recently added cupping to his arsenal of healing practices, explained that instead of heated glass he’d be using silicone cups of various sizes, no heating necessary. And instead of just keeping them stationary, he’d be carefully dragging them along specific meridians for a kind of reverse Swedish. Regular massage uses positive pressure (pushing) while cupping uses negative pressure (suction) to pulls excess fluids and toxins to the surface, thus the discoloration. “It’s the difference between sweeping and vacuuming,” said Larry. Sounded good to me.
Now, I have to admit that I didn’t go in thinking I’d be getting some sort of fluffy duffy massage; I thought of it more as a medical treatment…. along the lines of a colonic. Thankfully I was way wrong. It was like massage meets acupuncture. As Larry suctioned and soothed my muscles, something happened: I let go of a little tension, a little stress, and melted into the massage table. And not once did I tense up with the tickles, a regular occurrence when I’m on the massage table.
While Larry worked his magic (and I continued melting), he explained that cupping isn’t for everyone. It’s not recommended for pregnant women, and he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who can’t handle a deep tissue massage. But it can work wonders on sprains and he’s even seen some success with cellulite, although you probably need more than one treatment to see a difference.
Yes, I had marks, but Larry said they were pretty faint in comparison to the norm – “I must be pretty toxin-free,” he said. I beamed, like he’d just told me I looked 10 years younger. And for the record, those Gwyneth circles aren’t bruises—no capillaries are actually ruptured, said Larry—they’re the toxic stuff coming to the surface.
The marks lasted a couple days and so did that tingly relaxing feeling, especially in my back and upper shoulders. Even better, my trapezius, that muscle where the neck meets the shoulder which is permanently knotted thanks to a lifetime of teeth-grinding, noticeably deflated. And all this after only one treatment.