cupping for endometriosis
Living with endometriosis is a tough battle. Every month, there are two or three days when I literally cannot move from my bed. Three days doesn’t sound like a lot, but it adds up; that’s more than a month each year where I can’t function through a normal day. The pain in my back, lower abdomen, and sometimes down my legs, is so intense, I’ve been told it akin to labor contractions. Waves of throbbing, nauseous, aching pain radiate throughout my body for hours on end. it feels like someone bludgeoned my insides and won’t let up. it feels like my body is falling apart and i can’t stop it.
It’s exhausting—not just physically but emotionally. It forces me to stay at home curled in the fetal position, unable to attend work or social events. Employers, coworkers, and friends often have a hard time understanding this. Sometimes I feel desperate enough to go to the ER (although I know they’ll only load me up with inflammatory pain pills). I’ve almost passed out many times. The pain disrupts my bowels as well, which means I’m on and off the toilet all day, sobbing into my knees. No amount of pain meds, heating pads, or supplements has ever worked to consistently or significantly reduce the pain; and anything that works at all takes long to sink in. That is, until Jena Covello of Agent Nateur introduced me to cupping.
I can’t remember when I first heard that certain TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) therapies can help heal pain from endometriosis, but I never expected them to work. Having been raised on Western medicine, I’d always been a bit skeptical of the efficacy of alternative and holistic medicines. By now, I’ve been much down the rabbit hole of holistic health for several years, but I’d still tiptoed around trying anything from TCM—mostly because I believe this is a highly skilled area of practice, but also because a part of me still wondered if such simple bodywork could produce dramatic results.
Well, produce it does. After reading about cupping for endometriosis from Agent Nateur last month, I bought myself a cupping set and got to it. When my next menstrual bleed arrived, I was shocked to find my pain level was drastically decreased by about 70% in the span of only a few minutes.
After 13 years of cyclical monthly pain, all it took was 13 minutes to find relief. Quite honestly, I broke down in tears and freely offered up prayers to the universe. My pain didn’t return all day, and the next day, I braced myself for intense cramping—but it never arrived.
How does cupping work? Essentially, you place small glass or silicone cups on oiled skin—wherever the pain is situated—and, using either heat or a pump, pull the skin and tissues up into the cup, creating a suction. This causes expansion of the blood vessels, which stimulates blood flow and circulation, reduces inflammation and pain, and quite literally breaks up the stagnation in our bodies. It differs from massage because the technique is to pull instead of push. The cups are placed for up to fifteen minutes, or they can be moved around for a different approach.
The cupping itself is not unpleasant; it feels like you would imagine a suction on your skin would feel, and near the end of the quarter hour, my skin starts to itch a bit under some of the cups (it helps to add enough oil before beginning). Afterward, I have faint red circles on my back, some darker than others where the stagnation is worse, but it all fades within a few days.
Cupping has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine as a holistic bodywork practice that helps move stress out of the body through myofascial release and detox of the lymph system: these are two important aspects when it comes to healing chronic pain, whether it’s migraines or menstrual cramps.
You can cup yourself at home by purchasing your own kit, but for best results, it’s recommended to seek out a trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner. Following the anecdotal guidelines I’ve found online, it’s best to do about once a week, and during the menstrual phase, whenever you experience pain. Cupping does leave behind some red bruising, but it doesn’t hurt during or after; just be careful on sensitive skin or areas of the body.
Have I found the solution for my endo pain? Perhaps it’s too soon to tell; but with such immediate results, I can’t ignore the evidence. TCM is more powerful and effective than I’d thought.
Update June 2019: Cupping continues to work, though not always consistently as well - some months it reduces my pain 40% and some months 70%. I had a random month where it only helped about 20%. So, it works, but it’s not a cure-all. Definitely worth the $30 investment.