Ever seen someone with strange, purplish red circles on their back?

The dots aren’t some kind of rash but the marks left by cupping, the Chinese practice of using glass or plastic vacuum ‘cups’ to suck up skin away from muscles and stimulating the blood, detoxing the body and relieving pain.

The alternative therapy is popular with celebrities including Jennifer Aniston - who used make-up to cover up her cupping marks on the red carpet - Gwyneth Paltrow and Nicole Richie.

[Read more: Vagina facials: the beauty treatment explained - and how to do it at home]

What is cupping?

Jurgita Misiute who specialises in traditional Chinese acupuncture techniques combined with Tui Na Massage and cupping to treat an array of symptoms at London’s Fernskinclinic, explains: “Cupping is a method of Chinese medicine, which uses small glass cups to create a local suction on the skin. The suction is created by heating the air within the cup (and reducing the amount of oxygen), then placing it on the patients’ skin. The air then cools down and contracts, creating suction.

 

A post shared by Waco (@kneadingcrystal.waco) on

“This promotes blood circulation, alleviates the muscle stiffness, and stimulates the release of the toxins from the body. Depending on the specific treatment, the patient may notice skin marking – discoloration of the skin after the removal of the cups, which is referred to as ‘cupping kiss’, which fades away after 3– 6 days.”

[Read more: 8 things you probably didn’t know about acupuncture]

What are the benefits of cupping?

“Cupping has a myriad of benefits, like removing toxins from the body and stimulating the flow of fresh blood, lymph, and Qi to the focus area, and throughout the body. The treatment can target colds, fever, back and muscle pain or aches, poor circulation and anxiety.

“More athletes have turned to cupping, seeing as they are continually looking for methods to naturally improve health and performance, plus the technique can be used in synergy with other treatments to relieve stiffness and address injuries.”