|Me, with fresh coining bruises|
I've never received a satisfactory explanation of how it is supposed to work. Cambodians have told me that it helps restore the "balance of hot and cold" in the body. Others have said that it is to relieve an excess of "wind" in the body, which does correspond nicely to the name - 'chawl' in Khmer translating to 'wind' in English. This seems to relate to the Eastern notion of yin and yang and the necessity for balance between the two. Still sounds like hocus-pocus to me. One local friend tried to put a more scientific spin on it suggesting that it helps to promote blood flow, but I think he was just speculating, trying to make it more palatable to my western ears. Explanations aside, my experiences with the practice itself has been a positive one.
More than a decade ago here in Cambodia, suffering from back pain of unknown origin and having exhausted most of the available western options, I relented to pressure from my Cambodian maid and allowed her to take me to a traditional doctor (a massage shop) to get coined. I figured that at worst it would be a difference that didn't make a difference - that it wouldn't help, that I'd still have the same back pain plus a few minor bruises and a story to tell.
|Coining tools. Left from Cambodia. Right from Vietnam|
Since then I have had it done a few more times for similar problems, usually when I have reached the end of my rope, but almost always with a positive outcome. I don't know why it works, or even if it does actually work, but I do seem to consistently get better within a few days.
I just had it done again for the first time in more than a year, bruised tiger stripes front and back, to deal with some rib/back pain probably born of being old and spending too much time hunched over a computer. Cup chawl hurts, especially as they apply an alcohol based liniment while they do the scraping, but I am anticipating feeling better in short order.
Years back, being the western-centric, science-oriented old-man that I am, I never could have imagined myself engaging in, let alone touting what I would ordinarily consider mumbojumbo medicine, but cup chawl has done me right. I am a satisfied customer and would recommend it to others.