Alternative healing spotlight: Cupping

In this new series, we’re spotlighting some of our favourite alternative healing therapies, how they work and who can benefit most from them. Whether you’ve tried alternative therapies or have always been curious, we’re rounding up some of the most popular ones, and getting the facts straight from the experts. For our first feature, we get some great insight into cupping, from registered acupuncturist Haley Jardine, who also studied Chinese Medicine (which encompasses acupuncture, cupping and acupressure). While you’re more than likely already familiar with cupping, maybe you’ve even gone for a session, there’s a whole lot of information you can learn about your body from those purple bruises, and Haley breaks it down for us.

For those who haven’t experienced cupping, what is it and how does it work?
Glass cups are applied to the skin after a vacuum if formed (traditionally with fire). The suction created from this vacuum draws up underlying body tissue, instantly relieving built up tension. Unlike massage, which uses compression to relieve tension and pain, cupping uses decompression. This decompression immediately draws blood flow to the area, loosens fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and calms the nervous system.

Aside from providing pain relief, the most fascinating part about cupping is its ability to help the body detoxify. When we have injuries or illness our blood flow becomes impaired. As a result toxins and impurities accumulate in our tissues. The negative pressure of cupping draws these toxins to the surface of the skin. The marks you see after cupping are NOT bruises; they are created from the toxins such as lactic acid, nicotine, caffeine, heavy metals, mold, aluminum, chemicals in beauty products, and pesticides in our food (to name a few). Normally our liver and kidneys will filter our and remove these toxins from the body but a lot of the time due to stress, illness and imbalance, these organs become overwhelmed.

Who and when might someone benefit the most from cupping?
If you are experiencing pain of any kind, both acute or chronic (dull, achey or sharp), when are you feeling sluggish, low energy and unmotivated, if you are doing a cleanse or detox of any kind (food, alcohol or drug related), while struggling with insomnia, anxiety or depression.

How do treatments differ in terms of cupping being an immediate solution to an acute problem (e.g. pain) vs. as a more long-term solution (e.g. immunity)?
Cupping does provide immediate relief to both an acute and chronic problem. After a treatment you will typically feel amazing and as days and weeks pass you may feel tension and tightness start to return. In my treatments I combine the cupping therapy with massage and acupuncture, which not only targets relief of acute symptoms (eg. Pain), but also treats the underlying root issues (eg. menopause, infertility and digestive issues). I typically recommend people come once a month or every 5 weeks for general maintenance of overall health and wellness. It is that reset your body needs to prevent issues from returning.

Why is cupping such an important alternative healing therapy?
Cupping provides us with valuable information as to what is occurring inside the body. It is a powerful way to obtain a body scan without using a CT or MRI machine. For example, cupping can reveal how toxic accumulation in the lungs (nicotine, mold, allergies). If a client has dark lung marks I can begin to peel back the layers to understand what is causing this build up. The same goes for the liver cupping marks. A large toxic build-up in the liver tissue can indicate the liver is not functioning efficiently; we can figure out how to support the liver both through the treatment and lifestyle choices.

I always tell my clients the cupping marks never lie! They will always reveal what is happening, not just at the fascia level, but at the organ tissue level. It is therefore an incredibly powerful and important tool for assessing our health and creating a treatment plan.

Haley is Vancouver-based, to make an appointment with her, visit her website here.


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Kylie McGregor is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, Culinary Nutrition Expert, and editor-in-chief at Well Daily. After four years working in Toronto as a publicist, Kylie’s passion for nutrition, a desire to learn more and share this knowledge with others led her to enroll in Meghan Telpner’s Culinary Nutrition Expert Program, which provides an in-depth education around the healing properties of various foods and how to prepare them. Upon completion of this three-month program, Kylie decided to further her education and enrolled at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver, where she completed the one-year diploma program. Kylie hopes to share the knowledge she’s gained on her own journey, and encourage others to take control of their own health, wellness and happiness.

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