What is cupping therapy? The ancient therapy dates back to 400 BC, and has been used across the world to treat ailments from maldigestion and pain relief, to blood flow and inflammation. According to the National Library of Medicine (NIH), cupping is a healing technique where cups are applied to the skin to create pressure through suction.
I’ve been curious about trying this out after I kept seeing people post photos on Instagram of the post-treatment, red circles on their backs. That said, I finally booked a cupping appointment at ORA spa in New York. At ORA, ancient Chinese techniques are joined with contemporary holistic wellness in the heart of a busy city. I have only had one other treatment at ORA before– a signature massage at their quiet uptown location. This time, I booked at their larger NoHo location in lower Manhattan.
I entered the space and checked in at the front desk where I was offered water before my session. Then, I was guided down a wide hallway into one of their dimly-lit treatment rooms. After I undressed and put on an open-back robe, I laid face down on a thin massage table. A few minutes later I heard a knock at the door, which opened to the faint sound of clinking glass.
I heard the sound of a lighter heating the bulb which was quickly placed over the oil. Then, the tight suction began pulling my back fat into the glass cups. We also discussed acupuncture, in which she did a brief demonstration on my tense shoulders, and described the benefits of both treatments. After about 10 minutes, she left the cups to sit suctioned on my back under a heat lamp. She returned at the end of the 25-minute session to release the cups from my skin.
Does it hurt?
Before my treatment began, I didn’t know what the sensation would feel like. “Is it going to be painful?” I asked. The Licensed Acupuncturist, Janelle Belgrave, replied, “not necessarily” as she massaged a warm oil onto my back. The actual suction was not painful and was adjusted to my comfortability. While moving the jars around on my back, the abrasion caused temporary discomfort, but was tolerable considering the energetic benefits of the therapy.
Why the red circles?
For most people, including myself, the cups leave red circular marks that look like bruises. This is caused by increased blood flow. It can feel sore and remain on the skin for up to two weeks.
Would I do it again?
After the session ended, I felt instantly relaxed and cleansed as I laid on the table. I also had significantly less stress on my shoulders– a place on my body where I hold the most tension. Overall, I would definitely recommend cupping as a wellness treatment to help your body detox, not just physically but energetically. I feel it is important to give your body relief from daily stress and pain, so I plan on booking my next session in the upcoming weeks. After we finished, I took my time getting off of the therapy table, prioritizing my body as I transitioned back into the busy New York night.