At the beginning of this week, a good friend from work asked me if I wanted to accompany her to a traditional Chinese wellness treatment. Apart from receiving three month of medicinal acupuncture a few year back when I hurt my knee during a run, I had fairly little experience when it came to alternative medicine. Since I knew I had a tough week ahead of me I agreed, and asked her where she wanted to go and what they had on offer. She took out her phone, opened an App, and showed me some of the practices the health center she had picked specialized in. Since she already had some experience with this, she suggested I try something called “scraping”. I remember her telling me about the last time she had this technique done, where the skin on her back got scraped with a sort of blunt spatula to increase blood circulation. I’m ridiculously ticklish so I knew I could not live through the experience of someone moving a pointed object up and down my back. Then I remembered that I always wanted to try acupressure, or cupping. Lucky for me, this was also offered and we even got an nice discount for booking the treatments via the App (gotta love China!). We finished work in time and took the bus to Tuanjiehu subway station, which is close to where the Wuzhisheng Foot Reflection Health Center is located. I have to admit I was a little nervous, because I didn’t do any research on how a session of cupping would go about and if it was painful to have these cups stuck to your back. I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder my fears, though, because the moment we entered the building we were greeted by an enthusiastic employee ushering us into the elevator to the fourth floor. Once there, we were quickly given a double room where we were to change into pink cotton pajamas. As is typical in China, the first thing that arrived in our room were two tall glasses of hot water. A minute later two women knocked on the door and pushed a small cart with around 40 tick-walled glass cups into the room. I went first with the cupping, since my friend had booked a combined session of scraping and cupping. We removed the pink shirts, and I lay face down onto the treatment table, placing my head onto the stretcher hole looking at the floor. When I peaked up a minute later, I saw the woman light what looked like a small honey dipper soaked in fuel. She kindly asked me to put my head back down and relax, and I really did feel a little uncomfortable then, not knowing what she was doing.
Later when I watched her apply the cups to the back of my friend I new what had happened, but I was clueless as to what was expecting me when I returned to looking at the floor. Another minute went by before I heard her clank the burning honey spoon against the inside of the glass, which she used to heat up the air inside the cup before quickly placing it on the skin of my back. I think I have to do this a few more times before I could get used to that feeling of my skin and underlying muscle get sucked into the glass by the vacuum. Repeating this technique 16 times I soon looked like a porcupine with glass cups sticking up from my back instead of spikes. I flinched a couple of time, not only because I was tickled, but also because of this completely new sensation all over my back. Surprisingly, the cups were only attached to my skin for less than five minutes. It felt longer since I concentrated on trying to relax a little to enjoy the treatment. It really wasn’t that bad, I think this is something that takes a while to getting used to, but it felt really good when the cups were removed and a deep relaxation spread through my muscles and uncramped my back. I’m sure I will do another session when I return from my summer holidays, because I think now that I know what to expect I won’t be surprised by the feeling. Although I have seen a few people with the resulting dark marks on their backs, I’m still a little astonished when my friend took a picture of my back and showed me the large round impressions on my skin. Now, five days after having done this, my skin itches a little bit and the circles begin to fade. It is somewhat difficult to find business clothes that cover the dark marks when going to work, though. Especially since it is summer and I can’t wear long sleeves. I honestly can’t say yet if I really have benefited from cupping, then again I was a bit nervous and might have missed out on some of the relaxing effects.