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Curious about cupping? So was I. As a copywriter who makes a career out of sitting at a desk all day long, my posture is pretty pissed at me most days—leading to chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain. When I started up weekly deep tissue massages, my masseuse asked me at the end of our session if I had ever tried cupping. That’s where my exploration into the world of this traditional medicine began.
If you’re a novice to this healing practice like I was, here are a few things to know before you book your first appointment!
While I’m well versed in the art of deep tissue massages, I knew essentially nothing walking into my first cupping session. What exactly *is* cupping, anyway?
Think of it as the opposite of a massage. Stay with me. Instead of applying pressure to the muscles, cupping uses suction to lift your fascia—if you didn’t know this word don’t worry, neither did I—which are the connective tissues in your body and your muscles. This suction creates healthier fascia, which equals more flexibility and improved muscle recovery.
Don’t let the red marks fool you; cupping isn’t painful. I’ll be honest, going into my first session I was pretty nervous about how my sensitive skin would react. I can honestly tell you that while the sensation was odd, it didn’t hurt at all.
You’ll feel a tightness in the area of the cup, and usually, the sensation is really relaxing. For my first experience, my practitioner used glass cups—instead of silicone—and a (completely safe) fire cupping technique. In total, the whole thing took about 10 minutes. Think friendly octopus.
Starting my research into cupping was overwhelming. There are several different methods, but the ones most practiced are:
- Moving Cupping: This form of cupping involves the practitioner applying oil to your skin before putting on the cups and then sliding them up and down your back. This is usually the type of cupping I do because it has a larger focus on the back.
- Fixed Cupping: For this type of cupping, the cups are applied and left in specific areas for a few minutes. This tends to be a stronger treatment, bringing up a lot of stagnation in the body, so it’s not always recommended for first-timers.
There are many types of cupping with glass, silicone—and even bamboo cups—used. Don’t know where to start? Talk with your practitioner at the beginning of your session. I spent 5 to 10 minutes before even laying down chatting with my practitioner about all of my symptoms so she could figure out the best technique. Don’t be afraid, speak up for your wellness!
Probably the biggest deterrent from starting cupping was seeing the gnarly marks people posted on their Instagram after a session. While my first experience looked like that friendly octopus went to town on my back, I was pleasantly surprised that it faded after 4-5 days.
My practitioner shed some wisdom on the subject, telling me that it all depends on the person and how static their fascia is. For me, I’m very tight (hence the back pain and constant need for massages), so it takes a little longer to fade back to normal. But for others with more active fascia, they don’t even show any marks, or it can fade after a day. Regardless of how long it takes, I like to think of it as a wellness badge of honor–a symbol of my lifelong commitment to improving my well-being, marks and all.
Last, but certainly not least, finding an experienced practitioner who you trust is key. I’ve been getting deep tissue massages for a little over a year now and only found two practitioners that I’ve connected with. When you feel a good vibe, and can fully trust someone with such an important task of your everyday wellness, keep them in your weekly routine.
While I know appointments like deep tissue massages and cupping are a privilege not everyone can partake in, they have both done amazing things for my physical and mental health. Not only has cupping helped improve my fascia and overall circulation, but it also has been an active part of my self-care routine and shown me that I am worth the work.
Interested in cupping? Book your first appointment on the MINDBODY app! Prioritize your wellness and find a service you love, wherever you are.