Have you ever tried cupping therapy? Like so many other alternative therapies, it has intrigued my experimentalist spirit for a long time, but one of the things that had always kept me from trying it (besides the cost) were photos of celebrities I'd seen sporting enormous red welts on their backs post-treatment. I remember seeing a photo of Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a backless top and sporting some very odd circular marks on her back.
What has she done? I remember thinking, and more to the point, why did she do it?
Curious, I looked into it further and discovered that cupping therapy is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that can significantly improve blood flow by focusing on the five meridian lines on a person's back. It works a bit like a massage in reverse - drawing toxins out of the body. Like acupuncture, traditional practitioners also believed it improves the flow of qi (vital energy) in the body.
As well as increasing circulation and easing back and neck pain, cupping can also help to:
* ease anxiety and fatigue
* relieve migraines
* reduce symptoms of rheumatism
* improve the symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders
* improve the symptoms of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma
* ease the pain experienced by arthritis sufferers and
* improve the appearance of cellulite
Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
After finding out all of this, I wanted to try it even more, but there was always the question of cost. Alternative therapies don't come cheap and because I didn't need it desperately, I could never justify spending the money.
So I put the idea in the back of my mind and it stayed there. That was until my mother-in-law, Maria, came to visit from Sicily to visit her first grandchild ...
During the time of her visit, I was experiencing quite bad back pain, mainly due to breastfeeding and sleeping in awkward positions. She kept saying that she should do some ventosa on me to help the pain and I kept thinking what is this ventosa? I'd never heard the word before and was slightly worried that it may be some form of witchcraft :)
Then one night she described it to me and I realised she was talking about cupping.
"We've been doing ventosa for centuries in Sicily", she told me. "I remember my mother would do it all the time for my father when he came home from work all stiff and sore".
"But you get enormous bruises all over your back", I said, worried that a DIY version might result in something even worse.
"No no no", she laughed, "that's only if you leave the cup on for a long time. Go and get me a bit of old cloth, a glass, some matches, some thread, some olive oil and a gold coin".
The glass, the matches, the olive oil and the thread were easy enough to find. I had to borrow the coin from Ben's money box though and for the cloth, I brought her one of the baby outfits I'd ruined during my washing disaster.
She cut a small circle out of the cloth and wrapped it around the coin. Then using a bit of thread, she tried the cloth around the coin.
She got me to lie on my stomach on the sofa and rubbed olive oil onto my back. Then I heard her strike a match.
Oh dear God, I thought, is this how one gets revenge on difficult daughters-in-law in Sicily?
"What are you doing?" I asked her hesitantly.
"Just lighting the tip of the cloth with the coin inside it", she said calmly.
She placed the lit cloth-with-a-coin contraption on my back and then placed the glass immediately over the top. Even though I couldn't see it at the time, she explained to me that when the glass is placed over the flame, the skin rises up into the glass and the flame goes out. This happens in a matter of seconds.
I know, it looks like I've grown a breast on my back.
She left the glass there for about a minute and then repeated the process several times on different points on my back.
When she had finished, she gave me a big glass of water to drink and told me to lie still until I felt ready to get up.
When I did get up, I felt like the pain in my back had been sucked out. I felt lighter and much less like a crippled old woman. I even slept well that night. Well, as well as you can when you have just had a baby :) And all it took was a few everyday household items and a $1 coin.
Since Maria's visit, Giuseppe and I have done DIY cupping on each other several times. It's a lovely way to ease your partner's aches and pains and get them to do the same for you because, unlike giving someone a massage, it requires hardly any effort or energy on the part of the person doing the cupping. If I ask G for a massage, he instantly moans that his hands are seizing up with arthritis (he's rather gifted in melodrama I'm afraid), but if I asked him to do ventosa, he always agrees (I always have to be the patient first though and the therapist second ... that way he gets to go to sleep while I'm doing it!)
(insert loud snoring sounds)
I sometimes do it to myself on my thighs as well because since it improves the circulation on the blood, it's useful - as I mentioned before - for improving cellulite. I'd stick in a photo of that too, but because there's a chance that you may be eating your lunch as you read this, I'll save you from the trauma of seeing my dimpled white leg suctioned into a glass in case it causes you to lose your appetite and possibly never find it again.
So that was the tale of the DIY cupping therapy. Give it a try if you like and let me know how it goes! Do be careful though, you do have to light a match remember, so I don't recommend you do it when you've had too much wine! And if you've already tried cupping therapy in any of its forms, I'd love to hear about that too :)
If you were one of the lovely people who previously commented on this post, I just want you to know that I did not delete your comments. I transferred the URL of my blog and in the process lost every single one of the comments ever made on my blog. I transferred it back to blogger and the comments returned, except for the ones made during the time I had a .com address. Learn from my mistake - if you have google+ comments enabled and you transfer your blog domain, you will lose all your comments!