Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cupping or 杯吸法

Any Westerner who has wandered the streets of China in the summer time is sure to have shared some of the disgust that I have for the many men here who walk about the streets with their shirts rolled up to their midriff. Half nudity at the dining table in a restaurant is very common and, I am told though I am not convinced, increasingly regarded by Chinese as "common." The practicality of this in the hot, humid summer occurs, but our Ashcroftian sensibility kicks in and we talk about it.

There is a contingent of foreigners here--mostly old men, some of whom have married Chinese women--who love to spend their evenings drinking and complaining about the people whose country they are visiting. In certain environments, it is impossible to avoid such banter. I smile and nod, but if the topic rolls around to the half-naked men in this city, I concur vociferously. The only thing more disgusting and, in fact, terrifying is the people who wander around the streets with big circles on their back. I, although I will keep a shirt on, have transformed myself into just such a frightening specter.

Cupping is the use of suction cups to remove impure energy from the body. It involves lighting a match in a small, rounded "cup" made of glass, bamboo or pottery, and then removing it quickly and applying the cup to the skin.  The flame creates a vacuum and the cup sticks tightly to the skin. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of Qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body. (Source: Cave Creek Spa)

Traditionally, Cupping Therapy has been practiced in most cultures in one form or another. In the UK the practice of Cupping Therapy also dates back a long way with one of the leading medical journals ‘The Lancet' being named after this practice. A lancet is a piece of surgical equipment that was traditionally utilised to release excess blood i.e. venesection and to prick boils. The Arabic name for Cupping Therapy is Al-Hejamah which means to reduce in size i.e. to return the body back to its natural state. The practice of Al-Hejamah has been part of Middle-Eastern cultural practice for thousands of years with citations dating back to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC). Of the western world, the first to embrace Cupping Therapy were the ancient Egyptians, and the oldest recorded medical textbook, Ebers Papyrus, written in approximately 1550 BC in Egypt mentions cupping (Curtis, 2005).  (The Int'l Journal of Alternative Medicine)

While I do not need to share here, until I decide to run for President, the various ailments that disrupt and affect my daily existence, one is anterior knee pain. In the seventh grade, I tore the right anterior meniscus and had 30% of the cartilage removed. It has largely behaved itself since then...that is, until April when I futilely chased down a taxi that had my wallet inside. Since then it has been wobbly and painful from time to time. To my great surprise, a group of scientists have published an article:

An investigation into the effect of Cupping Therapy as a treatment for Anterior Knee Pain and its potential role in Health Promotion

I only had the cups applied to my back following the Cave Creek Spa technique described previously so my knee is unlikely to see any marked improvement, but if other ailments subside or transform positively, I am not afraid to tattoo myself with bloody circles any more. For now, I am still content to keep my shirt on and provide peep shows to my friends, if they inquire.