Cupping: What It Is, How It Works, Why It’s Good for You

Meghan Blalock

Yesterday, model Hilary Rhoda sent the community of some 110,000 Instagram followers into a tizzy when she posted a photo of her back looking terrifyingly black-and-bruised. She captioned the picture, “The cure to this chronic back/neck pain?! Please let it be! 🙏 #cupping,” bringing back to the forefront a spa treatment that was trendy a couple years back. Check out the shot:

Cupping: You’ve probably heard it mentioned, but you may not be fully aware of what it is, and why people do it. In brief, it’s an ancient Chinese medicinal treatment that alleges to treat all kinds of ailments from back and neck pain to cancer using heated suction cups directly applied to the skin. According to ancient Chinese wisdom, the suction serves to redirect Qi, the circulating life force that maintains life and wellness in all beings. That’s all good and well, but what is it really?

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Read on to learn five important things about the practice of cupping!

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1.There are three different kinds of cupping: dry, wet, and fire.
Dry cupping is the most common form of cupping in the modern world (and can be seen above). Suction cups are placed on the skin and a machine is used to suck gently on the skin. Wet cupping is less common, and came about originally in the ancient Muslim world; the suction cup is placed, then small incisions are made to draw out blood.

Fire cupping is less scary than it sounds; the fire is used in small bamboo cups to create the force of suction by extracting oxygen to the space before the cups are placed on the skin.

2.Cupping first came to the mainstream forefront because of Jennifer Aniston.
When Jennifer took to the red carpet in April 2013 wearing a Dior jumpsuit, she also displayed a number of strange marks across her back. She revealed that she’s a fan of cupping in the process.

3. Other celebrities are big fans of the procedure.
You probably won’t be shocked to learn that Gwyneth Paltrow is also a devotee of the ancient procedure, along with Victoria Beckham and Lena Dunham.

4. There’s no actual scientific evidence that it’s effective.
Cupping is widely touted as an effective treatment for a wide range of cancers; but the American Cancer Society maintains, “Available scientific evidence does not support cupping as a cure for cancer or any other disease. Reports of successful treatment with cupping are mainly anecdotal rather than from research studies.

5. It can, however, be successful at relieving pain.
While it might not result in health benefits as strong as curing cancer, many devotees of cupping allege that the main impact is significant relief of pain. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia, especially, claim it can be more effective than traditional medicine at relieving pain.

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