I don't know about you all but I am really feeling this year as one of the best yet! (And for reference, I never say that!)
To start off the new year, I tried a new health treatment and I wanted to share with you all. Thai Massage and cupping. Thai Massage is a form of bodywork that incorporates Hatha Yoga, acupressure, and reflexology with origins dating back about 2,500 years.
Unlike kneading and continuous strokes in Western massage, the Thai method uses point pressure, muscle stretching, and compression, done in a rhythmic movement of gentle rocking.
Cupping dates back to 281-341 A.D. The origins are pretty amazing, used for restoring spinal alignment, and in very early days, diverting blood flow in surgery away from the surgery site. Cupping is used in over 60 countries to treat a broad spectrum of conditions such as headaches, musculoskeletal pain, infections, insect bites, hypertension, respiratory conditions, skin disorders, digestive problems, and infertility. Dr. William Osler, considered the Father of Modern Medicine and one of the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital, recommended cupping for bronchopneumonia and acute myelitis in the early 1900’s.
So, does it work? There are several theories on the mechanisms of cupping. Skin is well vascularized – meaning it has a rich blood supply, and the applied suction has been found to increase circulation through dilating capillaries causing them to rupture – which causes the tell-tale circular bruises – and to promote lymphatic circulation. Cupping also exerts a positive effect on regulating the immune system and controlling inflammatory processes.
But, there really haven't been enough studies to determine it's benefit in particular treatments outside of neck, shoulder and back pain management. Lucky for me, I'm not dealing with any insect bites, snake bites, infections, respiratory conditions or herpes (yes, there is a study that says it's a good herpes healer.) So, pain management sounded great!
The Thai massage was great. I would recommend this for athletes of any kind. Being right in the middle of my Yoga Teacher Training, I was sore and I knew my legs weren't in shape for a deep tissue massage but I needed something to just stretch out my body and give it some room, ya know? You lay on a mat on the ground with loose, yoga clothes on. The masseuse will be all over the place, so really you just close your eyes and become a wet noodle. The slow stretching and point pressure done right where it was needed felt wonderful.
Overall, it was very gentle but the stretches (especially the hips) were often more intense because you are held in them for a longer period of time. So, I came back to the breath and before I knew it, it was released and I felt relaxed and loose.
I then took part in a short add-on massage cupping. (I mean, Michael Phelps did it, right?) In modern day, many cups have their own suction systems versus the traditional glass cups heated with fire. My practitioner used both. So, what's it feel like?
It feels like a tiny little pull on your skin when they suction the cup down. You can feel the tightness dermally, but that's about it.
Then, the massaging commences. Holy sh*t. It hurts. A good hurt. Imagine the deepest, deep tissue massage you could ever have. They move the cup into specific positions on the back as needed and what it's doing is breaking up all the gross stuff, lactic acid etc. that your muscles keep within them. I took many, many deep breaths. And for reference, I have 12 tattoos including a large one on my ribs. I promise I'm not a whimp. It's really intense.
After, I learned I was at a pretty beginners level of suction. The more suction, the more painful the massage can be. I did bruise. But honestly, it wasn't a big deal to me and it clearly looked like exactly what it was...cupping.
My back felt amazing. My shoulders and neck are the worst. They hold all of my stress and are often the focus spot for any acupuncture, massage etc. I have never felt such a deep massage (even though it wasn't exactly a massage) as I felt during the cupping. My shoulders were so loose. It was amazing.
My lower back was less of an ah-ha moment for me, but it still felt look to get the juices flowing through the massaging.
So, all in all. Thai massage? Recommend. If you need intensity, skip it and go with deep tissue but if you've just trained for a 10k, marathon, Warrior Dash—this is PERFECT. If you only get one, two, three massages a year, a deeper tissue might be more for you so that you can really get into the months that you're muscles have endured in between. But again, crossfitters, DO IT. You need it.
Cupping? Recommend. Seriously. Recommend. My shoulders felt so good. While it only lasted about 3-4 days (back to the real world, stress again commences) it was so worth it to feel the looseness that I'd been missing out on. The pain is a little real, but with breath you can get through anything. Right?
If you're interested? Jessica Guerrieri is your girl. A massage therapist for the last ten years, but well versed in many forms such as: deep tissue, trigger point, myofacial release, passive, Chinese cupping and more! She will work with you to determine what's best for your specific needs.
Good luck and happy cupping!
Blogger Note: I did not receive any discounts, gifts or other compensation for this post. I simply wanted to share something that I am adding to my health regimen because it did so much for me, I want you all to try too!