Living as I do in LA, it’s difficult at times not to roll my eyes at health-obsessed Angelenos willing to pay five times what a treatment used to cost before it became trendy. That’s not to say I don’t jump to at least try every fad, and I do occasionally hop on the bandwagon for the ones that work—I’m not that cynical, and I want to be well as much as the next kale-consuming gal. So, when I learn that a new nearby spa—The Spa On Rodeo—is offering cupping, I decide it’s finally time for me to try the (aesthetically disturbing) trend made famous by Olympians and celebrities alike. Here’s what happened when I did.
Does Cupping Work?
Cupping is a practice used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The cups pull blood to the skin, thereby (allegedly) improving circulation to the area and loosening up muscles and joints. According to Time, it's also thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits, and a 2010 review of clinical studies surrounding the practice found that there are potential pain reduction benefits. Other purported benefits of note include reduced cellulite and improved fertility.
I have what I like to refer to as a "desk body." My wrists are in constant pain, my booty is spreading and I tend to hunch my shoulders up to my ears for nine+ hours each day. This had led to chronic shoulder pain, particularly on my left side, which is incredibly uncomfortable. (Secretly I fear I have something called "frozen shoulder," which mainly affects women in middle age, and since I'm still pretending to be 20, for now I'm just going to blame my job.) I figure I may as well try cupping to address the issue, as regular massages only temporarily relieve the pain.
I can't lie to you—the cupping hurts, in some places more than others. But if the pain is too intense, I simply asked the therapist to loosen the cups a little, which makes them bearable. After a while, it starts to feel good, like one of those deep massages that hurts in a good way. She leaves the cups on for 20 minutes, and then gently releases them.
My shoulders feel amazing. The technician gives me some simple exercises to do to keep the feeling fresh, but I must admit that I leave fully expecting them to return to their original form in short order. Shockingly, they don't. Every so often, that left shoulder still aches a bit, but it's nothing like it used to be. Also, I rather like the marks left by the cups—they make for a compelling addition to my Instagram feed. Hey, it's 2017—don't judge me.
I do, after the treatment, come down with a cold, which feels related to the release of toxins promised by the procedure. It could, however, be a coincidence, so I wouldn't go in expecting to get sick after your treatment—on the contrary, cupping is purported to stop colds. Overall, my "desk body" feels much improved, and I decide to continue semi-regular cupping treatments as often as I can afford.