Cupping Therapy Bruised Me (and Shocked Me)

I knew I'd have those weird round bruises. But this? Very unexpected.

Consider me your BBL guinea pig. I’ve tried abhyanga, surf gyms, insect protein, forest bathing, Temazcal, nasal irrigation, dry brushing, Parkour, butter coffee, sound bathing, voga, and floatation therapy, all for you, my friends. I would say I’ve done it so don’t you have to (ex: cricket tacos), but the truth is, I’ve benefited from all of it.

I walked in for my cupping therapy appointment curious but not expecting much. I should have known better – after all, cupping therapy has been a core part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for millennia. (Yes, cupping pre-dates Gwyneth Paltrow. Can you call something trendy when it’s been time-tested for thousands of years? Hmmm.)

My massage therapist Amy has been practicing cupping for over 20 years, so I knew I was in good hands. I’m not queasy about acupuncture, so I thought this would be a breeze. Wow. It was intense.


4 Things You Should Know Before You Try Cupping

1. It doesn’t hurt. But it’s a weird sensation, feeling your tissue pull up inside the cups. It’s like a reverse massage, with your skin and muscle being pulled up off the bone instead of being worked down and out.

2. You can choose dynamic or stagnant. Dynamic is when your therapist slides the cups around delicate areas, moving toxins toward your lymphatic system, where they can be filtered out of your body. Stagnant is when the cups are set in one place for about 10 minutes, usually areas that need deep recovery. Stagnant is the technique that leaves cupping marks.

3. The intensity of the bruise marks may indicate toxicity levels. My treatment focused on my upper back, and most of those cup marks were light reddish pink and faded the next day. But the cups that were placed on my lower back, above an old injury (fractured lumbar vertebrae) created deep purple bruises that lasted for weeks. My therapist said those deep bruises likely indicates stagnation in that area, which makes total sense to me–my lower back feels frozen most of the time, even after 25+ years of yoga.

4. You’ll need to take it easy for 24 hours. Okay, full disclosure. I was honestly kind of excited to have cup marks. After all, I’ve seen Jennifer Aniston and Goop herself in strapless gowns on the red carpet, rocking their cup marks like some kind of holistic body art. But what I didn’t expect was the profound impact cupping had on my body. I was exhausted afterwards. It was a similar feeling to the last time I endured two full hours of rolfing. I didn’t go to the gym or run for a few days, recognizing that my body needed time to recover and detoxify.


The verdict? Cupping therapy shocked me. Its impact on my body was so much more intense than I expected. My lower back felt looser than it has for years, and that freedom of movement lasted several weeks. I’m excited to go back.

Be smart! If you decide to try cupping therapy, make sure you find a licensed massage therapist or body worker who’s been doing it a while, and don’t try it without checking with your doctor first if you have any kind of blood disorder.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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