A Cure in a Cup

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Massage therapy uses suction to promote healing

“The best thing with which you can treat sickness is cupping.”
– The Prophet Muhammad

As a health and wellness hobbyist, I had been curious about cupping therapy and massage for years. During this alternative massage treatment, the practitioner uses varying sizes of suction cups to invigorate skin and muscle, usually on the back. The increased blood flow and circulation is thought to promote healing, reduce pain, relieve muscle tension, and remove toxins.

Until recently, the options to receive such a service in Lynchburg were either nonexistent or extremely hard to find. But I finally got to see what all of the hype was about when I booked a session with Liza Yowell at Telitha Apothecary in the Boonsboro Shopping Center. Yowell is an independent contractor who lives on the Outer Banks of North Carolina but is often in Lynchburg providing skincare and “MediCupping” at Telitha.

Yowell was introduced to cupping 12 years ago when she received the treatment from an acupuncturist on the Outer Banks. She says the practice of cupping stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

“Fire cups are typically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine where cotton is saturated in alcohol, lit on fire and inserted in glass cups with a hemostat in order to create a vacuum effect,” she explains. “The cups are then applied onto the patient’s skin in order to loosen the muscles, liquify the fascia, dispel blood and lymph stagnation and improve the flow of Qi energy (the body’s vital force).”

After mastering the art of firecupping, Yowell became certified in vacuum therapy MediCupping, using a machine that is safer, more subtle, and gentler than fire cups.

She describes the service she provides as “a combination of manual massage and MediCupping therapy. I rely on the cups to quickly and easily liquify the fascia and soft tissue so that I can access the deeper layers of the muscles.”

The service typically lasts about an hour.

Yowell is often amazed at how quickly the tissue softens with less effort than a conventional massage. She also has a personal story of how cupping helped her.

“Cupping is extremely effective at breaking down scar tissue,” she says. “I had breast cancer in 2016 and I felt such relief working with the machine to loosen up my mastectomy scars. It really helped release a lot of the tightness in my chest from the surgery.”

Former NFL football player Jake Grove of Forest was first introduced to cupping therapy in 2005 in San Francisco. He played center position in the league from 2004-2010 and had his share of injuries and soreness. Fellow teammates had suggested he try Chinese firecupping at an Eastern Medicine Clinic in order to improve his performance and decrease his pain.

At the time, Grove says he took all varieties of anti-inflammatories as well as narcotic pain medicine.

“Cupping helped me reduce the amount of medication I took on a daily basis,” he said. “I feel like it did help lower my pain and inflammation. Particularly later in my career and after multiple surgeries. The day after a game I could barely walk and cupping on my knees, back and shoulders helped me to recover quicker.”

Another place in Lynchburg to try cupping is The Spa in Wyndhurst, where massage therapist Denayha Cotton enhances her cupping massage with silicone cups.

She strongly encourages communication from the client as the process can actually be painful for some.

“Even though I use the softest cups possible, it can still be painful if a client has a large knot or tight ropey muscles that are causing them trouble. This is why feedback is an absolute must, that way you are not in any more pain than necessary,” says Cotton.

To prepare for your session, Cotton advises that clients drink lots of water and eat a clean diet before and after the treatment to help with the detoxing process. Clients should also avoid hot showers immediately after treatment.

There will most likely be markings or redness on the surface of the skin that can last up to two weeks on average.

The color will change and varies based on the amount of toxins and debris being released. These purplish circles are a side effect that indicates blood, lymph and Qi stagnation.

Grove attests that he always had the cupping marks on his skin wherever the cups were used after a service. Many people like to “see” the results left from the cups—and if they don’t, they are easy to cover up.

Whether you’re just curious like me, or want to relieve consistent pain like Grove, cupping therapy is definitely worth checking out.

“Most important to me, there is no downside to cupping,” says Grove.

“There are no chemicals, no needles.”

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About Author

Rachel Dalton comes from a restaurant marketing and management background in Richmond but now is a wife, mother, writer, exercise enthusiast, very amateur chef, traveler, super planner, dog rescuer and lover of all things local to her new hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia.

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