Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Bu Huang treatment -- Cupping, Korean-style

Well, first off – I finally finished the trilogy I’ve been reading for, oh, three months now (Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.) Amazing, I tell ya. I don’t know what to do with myself now that I’m bookless. Oh wait, I’m in Korea. Nevermind.

So, facials are already dirt-cheap here. I finally discovered a couple of weeks ago that the place I go to for facials actually does do body massages (Why would they lie to me before?!) It’s only $25 for a massage...annnd I confess, they give me a bit of a discount because I'm “Meri” and I get facials often (yesss!). 

My masseuse/facialist knows what she's doing, too. She doesn't give one of those wimpy "relaxation massages." It's full-on deep tissue MADNESS – the massage I've been waiting for all my life!

I didn't know what exactly I’d be getting myself into when I signed up. I have a way of doing this to myself (again, refer to this post for my first crazy spa adventure).  But you know what? I have fun. Life is more interesting when you simply allow yourself to dive into the unknown and adventure a little. 

When scheduling my massage, the spa ladies and I threw our scarce knowledge of one another's language around in hopes that our message would somehow get across. Oftentimes I find myself making educated guesses. Or just guesses, period. I signed up for a massage, yes. But I didn't know I'd also be getting Bu Huang.

Mysterious, eh? Bu Huang (as I later learned after extensive research, because the huge red circles on my back were questionable) is also called cupping massage. It has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and, essentially, is this:
By creating suction and negative pressure, massage cupping is used to drain excess fluids and toxins; stimulate the peripheral nervous system; bring blood flow to stagnant muscles and skin; and loosen adhesions, connective tissue and stubborn knots in soft tissue. (Massage Today)
So besides lifting and loosening stiff and stagnant muscles in the body, the suction draws toxins and fluids that have accumulated deep within tissues to the surface where they can then be eliminated from the body via the lymphatic system (so it’s so very important to drink LOTS of water afterward to flush everything out). Clearing blockages also allows for an increased flow of fresh blood which, in turn, expedites healing within the body.

After my massage, she wheeled out a machine bearing a tube and suction cup and began "vacuuming" my back. I felt like my dog, Buddy every time we vacuum the carpet, we clip on the hose extension and vacuum him, too, because he loves it. Didn't know we've been Bu Huanging all this time...

Afterward, she pressed two rows of suction cups onto my back along either side of the spine. When she flipped the switch to turn on the machine, I'm pretty sure my eyes bulged out of my head just a bit. My back felt like it was being sucked into a vortex (or at least what I presume that would feel like). In and out, in and out. I cringed every time the cups "breathed in." This treatment is definitely not for those who can't stand even being pricked by a needle. It's definitely painful. But it got better after a few minutes. The tight muscles in my back and shoulders slowly released their knots and it was…tolerable.

When the cups came off, it looked like a moose (or any large animal of your choosing) had given me hickeys all over my back. It was pretty gruesome, I have to say... the result of what is called stationary cupping (other cupping techniques won’t leave these marks…only when cups stay on the same spot for several minutes). I had seen these circles on the backs of ajumas (older ladies) at the jjimjilbang. I never knew what they were from though. Until now. {I had put photos up here of my back, but decided I felt awkward about it, so they have since been taken down. If you are really interested in seeing what Bu Huang does to you, though, just holler!}

After the treatment, I was so relaxed I about went into a deep sleep there on the massaji table. The next morning, I had a surge of energy unlike anything I’ve experienced in quite a while. It may have been in my head, but I really felt as though my circulation had improved. I’m pretty sure I could feel the fresh blood coursing through my veins! (Seriously.)

Bu Huang, I later found out, began as a simple treatment to drain excess fluids from snakebites and skin legions, it was soon discovered that the treatment did so much more. Bu Huang can be beneficial for everything from colds & flu, arthritis, intestinal disorders, headaches, sciatica, rheumatism, high blood pressure, asthma and congestion, menstruation & menopausal discomfort, kidney disorders, depression & anxiety, fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue syndrome, cellulite!, musculo-skeletal problems, vertigo, clearing stretch marks & wrinkles, and improving varicose veins.

I admit – I’ve already gone back for a second treatment. I’m scheduled for a third this Thursday. I will be getting Bu Huang on my “trouble areas.” That is, my muffin top tummy pooch and cellulite-y regions. I shall report back soon with the result.


  1. Thank you for your comments. I am about to embark on a class on how to do Bu Huang and tonight I will only observe and receive a treatment by one of the advanced students. I will be mentally prepared.

    Enjoy Korea and all yur new discoveries.

  2. Oh wow!! Good luck on your class. Sounds exciting :) And thank you!



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