If you want a uniquely Chinese experience while you travel in China, the Chinese traditional medicine called cupping is ideal. Cupping is very unusual, relaxing, fun, easy to do and does not take long . This makes cupping an ideal way to enjoy an evening after a hard day seeing China’s incredible sights.
To help you understand what cupping is and how it is done, I have included photos of a cupping session I had several nights ago.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is when heated cups are pressed against your skin on acupressure points and the cooling air in the cups creates a vacuum. This vacuum causes a suction effect that makes the cups to stick to your skin.
Normally the cups are placed on acupressure points on your neck, shoulders, back and upper arms. Cupping can be done on other parts of your body but it should only be done on soft muscle tissue and should not be done on your face, abdomen or on the lower back of pregnant women.
The sucking effect is said to literally suck toxins out of your body. Cupping draws blood to the surface of your skin and this is what causes the red circles you can see in the photos. The darker the circles on your back, the more serious the health problems you have.
This sounds strange I know but if it is done properly, cupping is really comfortable, very relaxing and according to the experts, it has a lot of medical benefits.
The procedure for cupping is very straight forward and basic. When you enter the cupping center, you will be escorted to a room with several massage beds. The beds should be covered in clean while towels and are very hygienic. You then take off your upper clothing so the top part of your body is naked then lie face down on a massage bed. The cupping staff will use a small flame to heat the cups and place the cups one by one on your back. The placement of the cups should take no more than two minutes.
Next you’ll be left alone for 10 minutes while the cups open the pores of your skin, suck out poisons and draw blood to the surface of your skin. The sensation of the cups sticking on your back is strange but not uncomfortable so just relax and enjoy your very Chinese experience. Your skin will be tight and you may feel as if the cups will pop off if you breathe too deeply. Don’t worry, I’ve taken very deep breathes while being cupped and the cups never came off.
At the end of 10 minutes the cupping staff will return and gently remove the cups. The cups come of easily and there is no discomfort. You should be warned not to take a shower within 2 hours of the cupping because your pores will still be open.
The rings on your back left by cupping will start to fade in several days and should be gone within a week.
Medical Benefits of Cupping
I’ve listed the main medical benefits and uses of cupping for you below
-treatment and reduction of pain for arthritis, stomach aches, indigestion, headaches and menstruation
-treatment of respiratory problems such as congestion or bronchitis
-treatment of chronic lower back pain
-treatment of insect and snake bites
I’m a bit dubious about using cupping for treating snakebites but who am I to argue with a medical technique practiced by experts with a history of over one thousand years!!!
One point to keep in mind is that cupping is not suitable for every one. Due to language barriers and cultural differences, the Chinese staff who administer cupping are going to assume you ok for cupping and will not warn you. It is up to you to know if you can safely under go cupping. Cupping is not suitable if you have the following:
-allergic skin reactions
-skin that is inflamed or has ulcers
- a blood disorder such as hemophilia
Generally speaking if you are healthy enough to travel, you will have no problems with cupping.
Cupping as a part of your holiday
Cupping centers are very common and easy to find especially in the larger cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. If you ask your hotel/hostel staff, they should be able to point you in the direction of the nearest center.
Cupping is fun to do, has no side effects and only takes 10 minutes so it is ideal to do in the even after a meal and before heading back to your hotel to sleep. Try to experience cupping a day or two before you leave China so you’ll have a great Chinese souvenir to show your friends and family when you get home.