Last Sunday, in the midst of a plank challenge, I pulled a muscle in my back on the left side just beneath the rib cage. The pain was excruciating. I’d had success with acupuncture for a stiff neck…but had to find a new practitioner since the place I’d liked had closed. At the session, he also wanted to do cupping…applying small glass cups to the afflicted area and tightening each for a short time to draw blood to the surface, leaving circular red marks (which he said would look like hickies). As an author of novels set in medieval England I’d heard of cupping, and had read a few articles about athletes having it done.
Cupping is supposed to reduce pain and inflammation as suction draws blood to the site and helps the body process toxins. The Egyptians and Greeks used it many centuries ago. Early cups were made from animal horn, . In medieval times, according to Medicine & Society in Later Medieval England, it was performed mostly on women, children and the very old…and on skin that was scored with a knife or scratched by the nails (ouch), to treat a variety of ailments requiring application of heated glass, bone or brass cups to assorted body parts.
In my case, a wood box with engraved Chinese characters housed glass cups, which weren’t heated. Of course, in my vulnerable face-down position on the table, I couldn’t see what he was doing. He applied one, then tightened it. I felt the cold of each cup and heard a soft squeak-squeak as he tightened each one. It didn’t hurt, just a bit of pressure. After what seemed like only a few seconds, he released each cup.
Red circles linger two days later. Did cupping help? Not that can tell. The pain in my back continued, relieved only by application of a Tiger Balm patch (available at many stores).
Maybe I’ll find a way to include a cupping scene in my next medieval….
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