Hot Cupping: Therapy or Just Pain?

If the idea of having 30 big round bruises on your back for about a week sounds like fun to you, make sure to try hot cupping while in Yangshuo, China.

For some unknown reason it sounded like fun to Dave and I and after a week of cycling and climbing in China not to mention a of a couple of weeks of hard adventure travel in Fiji, we thought that a relaxing session of hot cupping would be an excellent way to work out the kinks from travel.

bamboo cups

Traditional hot cups

Hot Cupping – Yangschuo, China

Recommended by the Lonely Planet and our Intrepid Travel guide, we booked a session with Dr. Lilly Li  For Y40, we were whisked into the massage room and immediately told to get on the table.

Dr. Li told Dave that it was fine to take photographs because she would be giving us two separate sessions so he stayed to record it all for you to see.  (We have no shame, anything for the blog)

Check out our video of Hot Cupping and Decide if you want to give it a try

I am glad that I went first because if I had to watch it happen, I probably would have chickened out.

Within seconds she popped the hot cups onto my back.  As she stuck them to my skin, I felt a constrictive feeling.  My muscles started to tighten up and I wondered if I would start to panic.  As I breathed through it and talked about how it felt, I started to relax and actually enjoy the sensation.

hot cupping china deb

Deb with the cups on

Once the final cup is put on, you have 10 minutes to relax and let them do work their magic.  I started to feel very calm and enjoyed the squeezing of my muscles as the tension melted away.

The cups came off with a sting, almost like having a band-aid ripped off in one swift motion and before I knew it, my session was over.

Read: The World's Wackiest and Weirdest Massage Treatments

hot cupping china back

Marks will be there for at least 1 week.

Hot Cupping originated in China.

It may be unpleasant, but when in China, one must sample everything.

Once the pain subsided, I felt completely chilled out and my back was very loose.  Dave however had to go next and he just finished watching it all.  To watch the process, hot cupping looks painful and he was a bit freaked out.

As she put the hot cups onto his back, I had the chance to see exactly what I had gone through. I had no idea what it looked like.

Dr. Li uses the traditional bamboo hot cups and lights each one with fire before setting them onto our backs. Most people in the West now use glass cups and stick on far fewer cups.

hot cupping procedure

Dave's turn for Hot cupping

Dave commented on the tightening feeling he had on his.  I remembered my session (because talking made me feel better) as the squeeze started to make me feel panicky.  The squeeze of the hot cups makes you almost feel a little claustrophobic.  But it quickly subsides as you breathe into the uneasiness.

Don't watch
It was quite a sight to see the 20 or so cups piled onto his back. It took Dave a little more time to relax than me and I think that it was because he just finished watching the process.  What you don’t know won’t hurt you and I had no idea what ordeal I was going through.

Enjoy a massage? Check out Spa Etiquette, From Stripping to Tipping

hot cupping china dave

Darker bruises on shoulders from carrying packs

As our cups came off, we both had deeper and darker bruising around our shoulder areas.

The cups draw out toxins from the body and muscles and we were probably darker around our shoulders because of carrying our packs day in and day out.  Karen, our Intrepid guide looked at our marks and laughed at how bruised we were.  We are obviously more toxic than others and carry a lot more tension.  She said that her bruises are never that bad.

Check out our Top 5 Memorable Massages in the World

A person can do two sessions of hot cupping per month.  It is not advisable to do more as you will stretch your skin and there is no need to detoxify too much.   We are quite toxic, so I think that we will be doing another Hot Cupping session.

dr lily li

The recommended place to go

What's the verdict on Hot Cupping?

While we found it odd and a bit stressful during the procedure, we felt great afterwards. But we were stuck with bruises on our back for two weeks while walking around China in the heat. I think if we do it more often, we won't be so bruised and they won't use as many cups. If there are a few slight bruises it won't be so embarrassing. But we give Hot Cupping a thumbs up and when in China, be sure to give it a try!

Hot Cupping in Yangshuo Fast Facts.

Dr Lilly Li is located on the canal near the Chinese Food Bazaar. Look for the Lonely Planet Sign out front.

Costs are:

Hot Cupping Y40
Therapeutic Massage Y80  (50 minutes)
Foot Reflexology Y90 (1 Hour)
1 CAD = Y6.8
1 USD =  Y 7

Read More:

Your China Travel Guide

19 of the Best Things to Do in Hong Kong

The World’s Wackiest and Weird Spa Treatments

Yangshuo Cooking School: A Culinary Delight in China

How to Bring the Romance Back to Backpacking as a Couple

Sharing is caring!

Join the Conversation

41 Responses to "Hot Cupping: Therapy or Just Pain?"

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *