Inspired by our January issue on exercise, I signed up for boxing classes to kickstart the year. The fitness benefits are great, but muscle aches and tension quickly caught up with me. If elite sports performers use acupuncture and cupping as an alternative to pain relivers, I wondered if it might work for me as well.

I turned to Sarah Elliott at Elliott Therapeutics. Sarah is a Licensed Acupuncturist with the Minnesota Board of Medical Practices and is certified in both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine.

I asked Sarah how acupuncture and cupping works. “When you get a papercut, the brain recognizes the injury and will send antibodies to heal the cut and in a few days it heals completely. Acupuncture works on the same principle. By creating a micro tear in the skin, the body will send antibodies to the area to help it heal.” Sarah explained. “Cupping works on the same principle, by lifting the skin away from the muscle, it signals the body to send blood into the muscles to help it heal.”

If you have a fear of needles like me, don’t worry. “An acupuncture needle is about the width of a cat’s whisker and you will probably feel it going in, but the pain is minimal”, explained Sarah. After swabbing the areas to be treated with alcohol, Sarah inserted the needles. I quickly realized that I barely felt the needles go in. Sarah placed needles in my neck, along my spine, ankles, hands and ears. Once the needles were in, she placed a bell in my hand to ring if I got uncomfortable. Sarah let me relax for about 20 minutes. During that time, I was aware of a comfortable zinging and warming sensation between the acupuncture needles.  It was cool to listen to my body going through the healing process.

After acupuncture, we moved on to cupping. Cupping is different than massage in that it lifts the facia, the connective tissue of the muscle, allowing blood to flow in to remove inflammation. Massage, on the other hand, is a downward pressure. Cupping and massage have similar benefits that it creates blood flow to the muscles. Elliott therapeutics is the only clinic in Eden Prairie using fire cupping. Fire cupping is when a flammable substance is inserted and removed from a glass cup then the cup is placed upside down on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it will create suction, lifting the skin away from the muscle. I expected the cup to be warm, hot even, but it was cool to the touch. Sarah let the cups sit for a few minutes before moving them around on my back.

As I dressed, I took inventory of my body; the pain in my shoulder and upper back had lessened. Most of all, I felt centered and relaxed. I know that one session will not reverse the abuse I put my body through every week. Sarah even cautions that acupuncture or cupping are not a one and done approach, but can be a healthy addition to a natural lifestyle. 

If you want to check out acupuncture and/or cupping at Elliott Therapeutics, visit www.elliottacu.com or call 952-277-9975. Elliott Therapeutics is located at 8937 Aztec Drive in Eden Prairie.

FAQ about cupping and acupuncture

How does acupuncture work? It kickstarts the body’s natural healing ability by stimulating the autonomic nervous system to produce chemicals that reduce inflammation, encourage blood flow and release endorphins and calms the brain.

Acupuncture can help you relax, sleep better, have more energy, reduce muscle pain, lessen headaches, improve mood, improve digestion, balance hormones, improve skin and more. 

How does cupping work? Cupping is the use of suction to pull the skin and facia away from the muscle to release tight muscles and increase blood flow into the muscles.

What are benefits of cupping? It is mostly used for musculoskeletal conditions such as tight muscles, tension in the back and neck and to reduce chronic headaches. It can also improve the overall sense of wellbeing.

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