This week I was able to have my first Acupuncture experience in 10 years and my first ever cupping treatment.
Acupuncture is defined by the NCCIH as "a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body—most often by inserting thin needles through the skin. It is one of the practices used in traditional Chinese medicine."
Cupping is defined by the NCCIH as "a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. Proponents of cupping believe that the effect of suction on the skin helps increase blood flow and promotes healing."
I visited Cara at Andara Acupuncture in San Diego, CA. She started the treatment with STEM therapy (using electrical currents) by placing a few adhesive patches on my neck and back. I have received electrotherapy before in physical therapy and never really liked it so I had her keep the voltage fairly low to a subtle buzz. I did feel the electricity and I think it is just to warm up your muscles to help them get into a state of relaxation before the treatment.
Next I laid on my back for a chakra check, which Cara uses to determine the placement of the acupuncture needles. She held a chakra pendulum over each chakra as she explained to me each one and that if that chakra was balanced, the pendulum would swing clockwise and if it was out of balance, would swing counter clockwise. (Read more about the chakra system here.) Happily, all of my seven chakras were in balance and so she used a basic map for needle placement. Cara practices Esoteric Acupuncture which uses thinner needles for a longer period of time. She placed needles near my my crown, forehead, ears, elbows, purlicue (the muscle between your thumb + pointer finger), knees, and on my feet. I only felt a slight bit of pressure when the needles went in but they don't go in very deep so it was pretty painless.
She put on a guided meditation soundtrack and I laid in relaxation for about fifteen minutes. I tried to keep my mind clear and just relax. She then removed the needles and I felt very calm and centered already.
I next flipped over onto my stomach for the cupping session. She started by removing the adhesive patches from the electrotherapy, placing more needles near my crown and down both sides of my spine. Then the cupping began. I felt Cara place the cups and then suction up the skin. I felt a slight bit of tugging of the skin but nothing too uncomfortable. A few cups near the base of my neck would not stay put but she reassured me that was fairly normal and she would work out those toxins in another way. It was a bit harder for me to get as relaxed on this side as I felt the pressure of the cups and needles more so than on the front of my body. The lower right side of my back has a sensitive spot and I felt it tense up three times while I was laying then. I kept reminding myself of the toxins leaving my body and the muscle would release as quickly as it tensed.
The pressure I felt from the cups immediately subsided when Cara removed them and the needles. She applied some oil on my back and then used a few sliding cups up and down both sides of my spine. These cups felt amazing, like a mini deep tissue massage allowing everything to fully release.
She then used a Gua Sha to dig deep into the knots in my neck (where the cups kept falling off). She asked me if any other areas were bothering me and I pointed her to a spot near my right shoulder blade that always feel tight. She really worked the Gua Sha in this area for only about 60 seconds but it was probably the highlight of the experience for me. I near melted.
After the treatment, Cara showed me the cupping marks on my back and the red spotting from the Gua Sha assuring me they would both disappear in a few days. The spots that appeared darker meant there was more toxins present there. She said the more often you get a cupping treatment, the lighter the skin will appear each time as more and more toxins are released.
I walked out in a total zen state of mind. Going in, I wasn't expecting such a spa-like experience. I felt like I just had an hour massage and absolutely felt lighter and brighter.
If you are curious to try, I would recommend finding a local acupuncturist in your area and reading online reviews to see how others liked the experience. Cara also mentioned to me that she does accept insurance so you can see what your insurance will cover.