A Cup That Runneth Over

Acupuncture therapist removing a fire cupping glass from the back of a young woman

Acupuncture therapist removing a fire cupping glass from the back of a young woman

As the 2016 Summer Olympics progressed, eyes were on swimmer Michael Phelps. It wasn’t just his medal count that sparked conversation; viewers and the media alike caught a glimpse of strange circular marks on his back. As it turns out, the large purple “hickey marks” were the result of an ancient therapy known as cupping.

It may be surprising to learn that the ancient therapy can be found right here in Louisville. Opened in 2014, Louisville Community Acupuncture provides this mysterious service, along with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Contrary to public perception, cupping is a quick, painless and simple treatment. It takes under 20 minutes to complete but boasts remarkable results.

By combining cotton-balls and alcohol, practitioners have a flammable source to light on fire.  They then quickly run the fire ball around a glass bulb and place the bulb on the back of the patient, creating a strong suction on muscles and tissue and can be used to treat aches, pains and even asthma. The strong suction assists with redistributing fluid in the body.

Cupping can also be used to aid individuals suffering from anxiety. In addition to the physical benefits, the process alone is very grounding. Unlike a traditional massage, where a therapist is in the room with you during your service, during a cupping procedure you are left alone after the application. The time in solitude helps refocus the patient to the present moment. The remaining marks disappear within four to five days on average.

Before setting up shop, owners Margaret Travis and Mike Sobin researched various locations. “We really wanted to find a place that needed access to community acupuncture,” says Travis, noting how Louisville ultimately beat out Tennessee. Community is a big component to the owners and practitioners. At Louisville Community Acupuncture patients receive acupuncture in a shared, open space where all can benefit from the collective healing power. They also offer a sliding scale for fees. Treatments are $15 to $35, allowing the patient to pick what they are able to pay.

On cupping, Sobin says that every culture eventually found it. “There is historical evidence of cupping from Egypt,” he says, before discussing old European folk medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine was perhaps one of the biggest proponents of the therapy. For example, if something was swollen, they could prick the skin with a lancet and use cupping to take blood out of the body.

“In a town that has a lot of cyclists or even social workers, eventually their body will start to hunch over,” says Travis. “Like the yin and yang, if you’re using certain muscles a lot, you need to restore yourself to balance. I can throw six cups on someone and see them almost instantly deflate.”

Louisville Community Acupuncture had cupping regulars long before the Olympics. Yet, not surprising they are getting even more calls about it these days. Between the influx of athletes and exchange of different cultures, there is little doubt that cupping will continue to stick around as it has throughout the past. VT

For more information, visit louisvillecommunityacupuncture.com or call 502.589.6860.

By Sara Giza, Contributing Writer