Victoria Beckham, Geri Halliwell, Paris Hilton, David Arquette, Lady Gaga and even tennis ace Andy Murray have endured the treatment.
These days, the hottest A-list trend is to show off bizarre circular marks on your back, thanks to cupping.
Pioneering Gwyneth Paltrow was the first celeb to highlight the therapy. Then fellow actress Jennifer Aniston stepped out on the red carpet with the same tell-tale blotches, made even more obvious by wearing a strapless, low-back dress and having her long hair pulled back in a ponytail.
Cup Spice: Victoria Beckham
This ancient form of Chinese acupuncture – which involves placing heated glass cups on your back – is supposed to alleviate aches and pains, reduce stress, increase energy levels, aid weight-loss and help fertility by stimulating blood flow.
According to Gwynnie, it’s not even painful. “It feels amazing and it’s very relaxing,” she told chat show host Oprah Winfrey. “It feels terrific.”
But the only way to find out for myself was to road-test this strange craze.
Occasionally, I suffer from mild upper back pain so I hoped an impromptu session could remedy the spasms.
'Normal people' have also taken to the fad. And London is, apparently, awash with cupping treatment centres.
I managed to squeeze myself in for a session at high street Chinese medical centre GinSen in Swiss Cottage. And it wasn’t until I was on my way there that the apprehension started to kick in.
While I’m a huge fan of visiting a spa for a relaxing massage or rejuvenating facial, cupping didn’t quite conjure up the same indulgent vibe.
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a wimp, withering at the sight of a needle, so my main fear was the pain. The thought of hot glass globes suctioning on my back like leeches made me shudder.
I was worried about how long the marks would last, too. I’m going on holiday next week, so I didn’t want to frighten fellow travellers with my skin patterned like an alien.
I had managed to work myself into a bit of a state but my nerves evaporated as soon as I experienced the panpipe music, scented candles and neutral colour scheme at the centre.
I was welcomed by smiley Chinese medicine doctor Lily Li Hua Li and led into a consultation room, where I was handed a cup of soothing green tea.
There were no blood tests or skin inspections. The pre-treatment check-up involved me sticking out my tongue and Lily feeling my pulse. Then I floated into the treatment room, which mirrored any other you would find in a spa.
I undressed my top half and lay face-down on the bed. Lily started kneading my back around my “pressure points”... and my knots unravelled. But just as I was starting to relax, I heard the strike of a match and alarm bells began to ring.
Lily swabbed the inside base of each cup with an ignited cotton wool bud until it was full of hot air. The flame consumed the oxygen, which created a vacuum. This was punctuated by a loud slurping sound as the cup latched on to me.
It felt like a pocket of my skin was being sucked by a vacuum cleaner and pinched with an elastic band. I let out a yelp but Lily told me to relax. She repeated this process until I had 10 cups on my back. I lay as still as I could so the cups didn’t pop off.
Lily eventually removed the cups and massaged oil into my sore skin. The effects of the therapy would normally be realised after a couple of days but some people appreciate them straight away.
She told me: “People can have the cups on for 15 minutes but I took them off you after 10 because I think you bruise easily.”
Panicked, I checked out the marks in the mirror. I was greeted by circular blotches, which could last two days to two weeks. Gulp.
But as Lily packed me off with some Chinese herbs to “work with” the cupping, I noticed a spring in my step. I seemed lighter and less bloated. Back in the office, I didn’t need my afternoon coffee.
Maybe I can wear a backless dress on my cruise – after all, I’m in the cupping club now.
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