After having my second baby, I was surprised to find myself in a body that felt like it had been run over by a bus. I mean, I knew I would not feel great, but I didn’t remember the level of pain from my first. Every inch of my body ached and hurt. My neck was so tense and tight from nursing and sleeping in weird positions, I had to get three massages in one week to try and work out the kinks. I could barely look down at my little miracle, and I stayed on pain killers longer than I wanted to simply because I couldn’t bear the pain. It would take me 20 minutes to get out of bed, and I would sit and cry knowing how much it was about to hurt to be mobile.
After about three weeks and still not feeling back to normal (I don’t have much patience), I turned to acupuncture for relief. The traditional Chinese medicine had cured my chronic headaches years ago when nothing else worked. And while I found great relief with acupuncture again in the weeks and months following my C-section, I discovered something even better.
Enter cupping. My only knowledge of cupping was seeing Michael Phelps’ back and shoulders during the Olympics. He had what looked like perfectly round red bruises. Now his visible markings made perfect sense.
My acupuncturist was my new best friend, and I couldn’t wait for my appointments. As a supplement to the acupuncture, she explained to me that cupping is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that uses special suction cups to create a negative pressure.
“Cupping therapy can be a valuable tool in postpartum recovery. It is similar to having a deep tissue massage, but instead of applying pressure with the hands, cups are applied creating a vacuum suction,” said Haley Honeysett of Honeysett Acupuncture in Riverside. “This suction helps relax muscles and increase blood flow to tight or injured areas.”
It can also have many other benefits outside of musculoskeletal issues. It can be used to help treat digestive issues, chest congestion, asthma, stress and even to release unpleasant emotions by moving the stagnant energy in the body.
According to Chinese medicine, a mother’s milk supply is made from both chi, or energy, and blood supply. If these are deficient, whether because of blood loss from childbirth or exhaustion from the demands of a new baby, a low milk supply can present. Cupping works directly on revitalizing blood supply and chi. Cupping can also help alleviate engorgement.
I would have given anything for one giant suction cup to take all of my pain away. But no such thing exists. My treatment area was mainly on my neck and shoulders. She would use five to eight glass cups and leave them in place for about five to 10 minutes. Then came the release. When she pulled the glass from my skin, it was the oddest feeling. I could almost feel the toxins exit my body. If you look at the pictures of my back, you can see how much skin is pulled into the glass. It’s not pretty, but it’s effective. The relief was instant.
I would often get asked about the marks on my back since it was summertime and my back and shoulders were sometimes exposed. Honestly, it looks painful, as if someone pegged me with a few tennis balls. When asked, people got an earful about my new favorite therapy. I am now six months postpartum and still get acupuncture and cupping weekly.
Don’t let the marks scare you. I highly recommend it for new mamas, after you’ve checked with your doctor, of course.