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How 5,000-year-old cupping is still transforming people's lives today

It’s the go-to therapy for everyone from Hollywood A-listers to Olympic athletes. Stephanie Bell talks to Lisburn therapist Jill Adams about the ancient form of massage and two local people who have tried it

Jennifer Anniston caused a stir when she turned up in a black evening gown for a red carpet event in Hollywood looking every inch the star but with distinctive unsightly red circular marks on her back.

The actress is one of many A-listers who is a fan of an ancient treatment known as cupping - which has also been transforming the quality of lives for people here in Northern Ireland.

Even though it is now on trend, cupping has been around for centuries, dating back to ancient Egypt.

It is only in recent years that it is being offered by therapists and has become one of the most talked about new alternative health treatments for pain and emotional well-being.

Just last week Loose Women Coleen Nolan and Jamelia braved the ancient art live on the popular daytime TV show.

Other celebrity fans include actress Gwyneth Paltrow, singers Jessica Simpson and Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham and tennis ace Andy Murray who is said to have used cupping as part of an approach to relieve stiffness and a back injury.

It even featured at the Olympics with athletes including US swimmer Michael Phelps using it.

‘People here are wary of anything that is different’

One of the first people here to train and qualify in cupping is Lisburn alternative health therapist Jill Adams, who runs her own Holistic Awakening clinic where she also performs Reiki and meditation.

Jill, who is also known for reading tea leaves, says she was fascinated by cupping and travelled to England to train two years ago.

Since then she has been using the technique to help people with insomnia, mild depression, psoriasis and pain by placing the cups on key points in the body.

Dating back 5,000 years, the therapy is a form of acupuncture, and is based on the idea that suction from the cups draws the skin up and mobilises blood and energy around the body.

Cupping therapy involves having special cups placed on the skin for a few minutes to create suction.

The purpose is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, and draw out toxins from the body.

There could be a tight feeling in the area where the cup is placed but it is a soothing sensation and the treatment is known to be very relaxing.

Circular welt marks and purplish discolourations, an effect of the air pressure, can remain on the body afterwards which is why Jennifer Aniston caused such a stir when she sported those distinctive marks.

According to Jill, though, not everyone is left with such obvious signs they've had the treatment: "The cups are put on with suction, so the skin lifts lightly underneath the cup so some people don't mark at all.

"Some people only have the outer circle marks, which can disappear in a few hours or within 24 hours. If there are toxins in the body, the skin is left with a whole circle mark which clears in a couple of days."

Jill, who is a mum to five grown up children, has been drawn to holistic therapy for years and when she heard of cupping decided that she had to find out more.

She explains: "Cupping originated in Egypt and then it became popular in Chinese medicine. I've always been fascinated by anything the Egyptians did as they were always very forward and doing things before anyone else.

"The only place I could find to train was in England where in terms of new treatments they always seem to be a couple of years ahead of us.

"Originally they used glass cups and had fire under them but I use plastic suction cups which are placed on the point of pain.

"There are also points on the body to deal with whatever problem you might be experiencing and depending on where the pain is or what the client needs, I place the cups on the relevant point."

She adds: "The cups will draw toxins to the surface of the skin which is how the marks appear and, the darker the colour under the cups depends on how many toxins are present in the body."

Those on long-term medication usually have darker marks. Each cupping session usually lasts 10 minutes which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of traditional massage, according to Jill, who works from her home clinic.

And the therapy is very popular, having proved successful with those who have mild depression. Jill has also treated some cancer patients, as well as insomnia, psoriasis and for pain relief.

She is also a Reiki master and has qualified in meditation, running popular classes from her Lisburn clinic.

Jill says people here tend to be more sceptical than most when it comes to alternative medicine.

Her own interest in holistic therapy came from her grandmother who used to read tea leaves which Jill says she passed on as a gift to her.

She says: "Here anything that is slightly different, people are very wary of. Anything I've done has taken a long time to train and then a long time to get people to accept it.

"My grandmother was a tea leaf reader and I grew up with a religious background when things like that were considered wrong or evil.

"I realised that if it is passed on to you it is a gift and not something wrong or evil. My granny gifted it to me and I know it is very old fashioned now but I do read leaves as well when asked."

Jill's sessions last an hour and cost £25. She is currently writing a book which will guide people through healing at home using holistic therapy.

  • For more information or to book a treatment you can go to her Facebook page Holistic Awakening Facebook Holistic Awakening, Lisburn

The clients

‘It sounded like a gimmick but it really did loosen up my joints’

Jeff Cargill from Lisburn is a joiner who was struggling with pain in his shoulders when he decided to try cupping. Jeff (49), who is married to Patricia who works in a pharmacy, was in constant pain for a number of years and it was beginning to affect his work.

He explains: “I had terrible pain in my shoulder, probably from working outside in the rain, plus wear and tear through my work.

“It was constant and I had no choice but to work with the pain. I heard about Jill doing the cupping — although I had no idea what it was and it sounded a bit strange to me, a bit of a gimmick. I had heard, though, that it was good and I had nothing to lose, so I gave it a go.”

Despite his reservations, Jeff was pleasantly surprised after the treatment: “I went along not knowing what to expect and it all seemed a bit weird, but the actual treatment is very relaxing and the next day I felt like a new man.”

After years of pain, he had found a therapy which worked.

“It really eased the pain and also loosened up my joints,” he says.

“That was a couple of years ago and the pain is still there but very mild and doesn’t affect me the way it did.

“The relief usually lasts about four or five weeks and then I would go back for another treatment.

“It is amazing and it has made a huge difference to the quality of my life.”

‘Not only does it relieve the pain, it’s relaxing’

Lisburn widow Lyn Chance (59), who is a mother of five and grandmother of six, came through treatment for cancer but then developed lymphedema.

This caused her leg to swell up and she was in a lot of pain when she decided to try cupping.

Lyn, who is also from Lisburn, recalls: “I had a tumour removed from my groin in 2010 and my lymph nodes removed which left me with lymphedema.

“My leg is swollen and was very painful.

“I go for cupping therapy once a month and found that not only does it relieve the pain but it is also very relaxing.”

Previous treatments hadn’t helped Lyn who sometimes found walking difficult.

“My leg was bandaged to try and ease the pain and I had tried surgical stockings but they made me immobile and didn’t help at all,” she says.

“The pain was very bad and although it is still there it is only very mild.”

She also says the calming impact of cupping has also been beneficial. “Mentally I have really benefited, too, as I have found it very relaxing and would really recommend it. It has meant I no longer live in constant pain.”

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