If you're suffering from chronic pain—migraines, arthritis, back pain—there’s a procedure that could help you, and it involves a lighter. It’s an ancient Chinese treatment called “cupping” and some Hollywood A-listers swear by it.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow appeared on the red carpet a few years ago with circular "cupping" marks across her back. The same on Victoria Beckham, Brittney Spears and even actor David Arquette who tweeted a picture of his cupping treatment just a few days ago.
You first “burn with a lighter and then burn the air inside and quickly put [it] on… to suck all the blood into this area,” said Dr. Lixing Lao of the University of Maryland. Dr. Lao is one the of the few doctors practicing cupping on the East Coast.
Dr. Lao recently treated a patient whose brain surgery left him in constant pain and unable to sleep.
“After the surgery, I got a lot of headaches, so I’ve been taking a lot of Advil for the last six months,” said patient William Tan.
Desperate for relief, Tan began cupping. Twice a week, Dr. Lao uses the heated cups to pull toxins out of Tan's body. The flame creates pressure and sucks the skin up into the cup.
“So to bring the fresh blood into this area and the move the congested blood away,” Dr. Lao said.
Dr. Lao is also using cupping on Carol Johnson who uses a cane to walk because of the pain in her legs.
On Johnson, Dr. Lao uses a combination of acupuncture and electrical stimulation, with cupping.
Cupping “can be used for internal disorder like stomach ache, asthma or hay fever,” Dr. Lao said.
After five weeks of treatments, Tan’s migraines are nearly gone. He has those cupping marks that last a few days, but he’s finally sleeping through the night.
“This is amazing. I'm really surprised because I never done it before and it works,” Tan said.
Johnson also says she feels better.
“It helped me walk without a cane,” Johnson said.
Two months of cupping treatments have made a world of difference.
Dr. Lao says he continues to see significant improvements in his cupping patients. However, the American Cancer Society maintains there is no scientific proof cupping really works.