Celebrities are known to be on the cutting edge of strange and controversial treatments and products, from Kim Kardashian's blood facials, to Oprah's "foreskin face cream", and even Eva Longoria's placenta beauty secret.
One of the latest curiosities is cupping therapy. Last week, Jennifer Aniston arrived at the premiere of her new movie 'Call Me Crazy' in a strapless black dress that revealed circular marks on her back — widely speculated to be left behind by cupping, a Chinese medicine treatment.
Apparently Aniston is a devotee of the treatment and has been receiving it for years. A few years ago, alternative medicine fan Gwyneth Paltrow also arrived at a Hollywood premiere with visible cupping marks on her back, with no attempts to cover them up. She told Oprah about the treatment, saying "It feels amazing and it’s very relaxing, and it feels terrific."
So what exactly is cupping and why are stars embracing it?
Cupping is an ancient Chinese treatment that claims to relieve pain, cut stress, and up energy, among other effects, by increasing blood flow. In the treatment, heated glass cups are placed on the skin, which creates a suctioning effect that is meant to increase blood flow.
The milleniumsold treatment is based on the same principles as acupuncture, and the suctioning effect of the cups is meant to get blood and energy flowing in order to counteract what Chinese medicine practitioners refer to as stagnation. Cupping is meant to get the body's forces moving in order to promote healing in the affected area. The treatment can leave marks or bruises because of the suction, but they fade over time.
Celebrity fans of cupping include actors like Paltrow and Aniston and singers like Jessica Simpson and Lady Gaga, as well as Victoria Beckham, who was seen with cupping marks on her back in 2010. But the treatment is also favoured by tennis ace Andy Murray, who has said that he used cupping as part of an approach to relieve stiffness and a back injury. His longtime girlfriend Kim Sears seems less enthusiastic; she said in 2009 that the marks left behind by the treatment made him look "like a reptile."