Hot Cups for Torn Muscles

Six months ago I tore most of my torso muscles whilst having a particularly violent brain seizure. Painful though this was, these injuries took a back seat to my fractured spine and the brain haemorrhage which had caused all the problems.

That brain seizure was timed by the visiting GP who recorded it as lasting for six and a half minutes and, apparently it was not only at least twice as long as what is regarded as a severe seizure,the elegantly named “grand mal”, but it was also particularly violent – thus the muscle damage.

Well my spine is on the mend and most of my muscles are nearly healed so pain is no longer my daily companion.

Except for my upper arms which have now got their moment of glory, centre stage.

The pain here has been just as bad as elsewhere but it has outlived all the others and my left arm, in particular, is still very painful.

Apparently I have torn my arm tendons where they join to the bone…..ouch, ouch, ouch.

This has been a pain in both senses of the word because I have been inhibited in my kung fu and tai chi exercises which are helping the rest of my body get back to full fitness.

I have had no treatment for these injuries as the doctors, when I was in hospital, decided that because they were impressed that I was doing tai chi on the ward every day once, a week after my haemorrhage, I could get on my feet again. Their plan was that my injuries, including my fractured spine, should be treated “conservatively.” In other words they would do nothing.

Well old mother time and my martial arts patterns have done wonders but that left arm has remained obstinately painful.

On Monday, my kung fu instructor, Neil, gave me a kung fu lesson. We went to the local park and he put me through my paces applying his eagle eye to my 66 move tai chi form and to six of my kung fu patterns.

It was a wonderful sunny high Spring day and I was inspired, in my opinion at least, to the best I have been since the haemorrhage.

In fact, we agreed that I was nearly as crap at my patterns as I was before my illness.

This meant, of course, as it has done now for nearly six months, that every pattern meant enduring a considerable amount of upper arm pain – the theory being that movement is part of the cure. Ouch again.

When we got back to my house, Neil produced his latest bag of tricks.

On his recent trip to China, the one I had to miss out on, as well as working on the dog boxing patterns that have now become a regular part of our kung fu club’s calendar, he was taught by the revered Master Lin, how to use the ancient Chinese medicinal treatment known as Hot Cups or Fire Cupping.

These hot cups were now to be applied to my arms.

In China they are called bod-kesh which means, in that wonderfully literal Chinese way, pull out jars.

There is a video below if you want to see the method which involves using bell-like glass jars which are rubbed with alcohol which is lit and applied immediately to the skin forming a vacuum which puts out the flame and pulls the skin into the jar drawing blood to the site.

You have to trust the person doing it, which I do, because it looks like you are going to be set on fire.

Acupressure points are used, as in acupuncture or acupressure massage and, I can tell you, it is a truly weird experience.

These jars are left in place for up to 15 minutes and then removed leaving a deeply unattractive looking circular blood blister which is not recommended if you are going on to a modeling assignment straight after.

The blisters will fade and, amazingly, so does the pain. After this session I could raise my arm easily and with the minimum of pain. Today, the pain is still considerably less than it has been since the original injury. I shall have another treatment in two weeks but whatever this cupping does, it seems to be very effective….but don’t try it at home, as they say, blood flow control and acupressure are grown-ups games.

I was told to rest for a day after this and, even though I didn’t believe him, Neil was quite right. I now feel surprisingly tired and drained but also pain-free. Actually tired is an understatement, I have felt as if I had been drugged all day, drained of energy.

I was unusually obedient over resting too, yesterday I spent most of the day listening to Joni Mitchell and reading some George Bernard Shaw… perfect.

In the meanwhile, I am the proud owner of four circular blisters, the most vivid one being where I had the most pain – surely that is significant.

Yet again, you have to hand it to those clever Chinese folk.

If you are too squeamish for the movie below, scroll on down for the latest of my poems in this my mini-poetry writing marathon which will eventually lead me to add more poems to the collection that you can find in the menu above. It is about a different kind of healing.



My novel, Stephen Dearsley’s Summer Of Love, was published  on 31 October 2013. It is the story of a young fogey living in Brighton in 1967 who has a lot to learn when the flowering hippie counter culture changes him and the world around him.

You can order the book from the publishers, Ward Wood Publishing:
…or from Book Depository:

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