Ever since Jennifer Aniston stepped on the red carpet at the Call Me Crazy premiere this week, the buzz has been more about the strange marks on her back than the Lifetime movie itself. But, unlike when Gwyneth Paltrow appeared with similar markings back in 2004, we now know they spots are signs of cupping, a holistic technique practiced in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Cupping, which falls under the umbrella of acupuncture, has been discussed more in recent years. Nonetheless, its roots go back millenia. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices are traced to before 3000 BC and cupping has been used since at least the fourth century, when it was noted in Chinese texts.
The basic concept of cupping is that a vacuum is formed over the skin, which helps treat ailments ranging from respiratory illnesses to general anxiety. Acupuncture Today describes the process on their website: “The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass as the air inside the jar cools. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.”
TCM also has long roots in America, although it received less support than the East. Although it’s not fair to say that celebrities helped introduce cupping to Western culture, Gwyneth Paltrow and — now — Jennifer Aniston have helped bring it closer to the mainstream. Even Ben Affleck was rumored to have undergone some cupping!
“It feels amazing and it’s very relaxing, and it feels terrific,” Paltrow said on Oprah. “It’s just one of the alternative medicines that I do instead of taking antibiotics.”
However, for what it’s worth, Paltrow and other celebrities have only been spotted sporting cupping marks on rare occasions. It seems that they still turn to the heavy duty medicine for serious ailments.