Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fire Cupping (拔罐 - BaGuan)

I'm still seeing my TCM doctor, though I don't have much to report beyond continued weekly massages and occasionally acupuncture. Every week, when I go in for my appointment, I secretly hope that I get prescribed a fire cupping procedure.

Flashback. Philadelphia, 2000. While visiting The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, I'm struck by an exhibit on out-dated medical procedures. The pictures and tools of archaic techniques to cure the spirits were fascinating - its hard to believe that doctors / barbers used to perform blood-lettings. If you've seen Steve Martin in his classic "Theodoric of York - Medieval Barber", you'll know what I'm talking about.

Another process that caught my eye was fire-cupping: the barbaric practice of using small glass hemispherical cups, small amounts of flammable liquid and fire to create a vacuum used to pull skin and burst capillaries on patients.

After treatments, the ill are left battered and bruised. The colors of the bruises indicate the health of the area and of the patients' spirits. chinese fire cuppingFlashforward. Beijing, 2010. As it turns out, the bruising isn't that bad and the pain is really just constant pressure and heat during the cupping itself.

My doctor still hasn't indicated fire-cupping as an ideal cure for anything that ails me, but that doesn't mean I can't get cupped. Believe it or not, I paid about six bucks for the beating I received and I got it done at a sauna - not at a doctor's office.

It's fairly common for saunas to offer cupping in addition to other spa treatments (ear candling, massages, steams, etc). So, when I visited a sauna in Haerbin, I knew that I had to ask for the works. The technician wasn't really focusing on any particular area and, as a result, my entire back was a mess.

As a relaxing cure - I wouldn't recommend it. If my doctor indicated that a localized treatment would help a particular problem I had, I'd do it again. Looks like fun right?