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Cupping Therapy

Last summer, the world watched as Michael Phelps won Olympic medal after Olympic medal, all while sporting dark circles on his back and shoulders. The circles were from cupping, an ancient Chinese therapy technique meant to increase healing, blood flow, and muscle repair.

I figured if it was good enough for Michael Phelps it was good enough for me, so I tried cupping therapy last weekend after Kendall recommended a place in the city. I invited our other friends to join me and Jess was the only one brave enough. The others replied with the following:

“I’d prefer not to look like I was attacked by a tentacle monster.”

“I’m not interested in that massive hickey experience.”

“What are you doing next, leeches?!”

And when I told my grandma, she just had a one-word response:


My cupping therapy began with a deep tissue massage. Now, I’ve had deep tissue massages plenty of times in my life, and loved them, but this one was the most painful massage experience I’ve ever had! Throughout the entire procedure I was swearing into my pillow, finally failing to mask my resentment when I asked the technician, “ARE YOU DONE WITH MY BACK YET?” louder than I had intended.

Then it was time for the cupping. She placed the cups one by one on my back, squeezing the air out and sucking my skin into them. According to Cupping Resource, this “helps remove obstructions in the natural energy pathways inside the body.”

Ok, sure. Really it was just extremely uncomfortable/borderline painful, and as soon as she put them on I was wondering how long they would need to stay there. Luckily it was only about five minutes, although it felt like hours.

Cupping therapy - Wanderlust in the City

Photograph courtesy of Cupping Resource

By the time I got home, with a very sore back, I looked like this:

Cupping Therapy - Wanderlust in the City

Cupping Therapy - Wanderlust in the City

Crazy, right?!

I went into the appointment feeling fine, and left with dark circles all over my back and extremely sore muscles. Granted a lot of the soreness was from the deep tissue massage rather than the cupping, but still, I felt worse off than when I started.

I left feeling like I’d gone through a war.

Cupping Therapy - Wanderlust in the City

The painful experience would have been worth it (after all, memories fade) if the cupping therapy had significantly improved my life. But it didn’t. At all.

Instead, after the soreness faded I felt exactly the same. The only benefit was that with circles all over my back I looked like a badass at yoga class.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the marks fade in about one and a half to two weeks. So if you are planning on trying cupping therapy do it soon, because as the weather gets warmer you’ll want to show off your unmarked back!

Perhaps if you have a particular issue then cupping would be helpful. Or if you’re Michael Phelps. But for me, it didn’t do anything, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

I guess I’ll need to find another way to win that Olympic medal…



2 replies »

  1. I posted about the pain of my sports massage and had a few comments from people saying they’d had cupping therapy…. I think I’ll give it a miss! Although your bruises do look cool, in a strange kind of way!


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