Trick or treat? Cupping

What is it? An ancient form of acupressure used for thousands of years in China, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, where glass, plastic or bamboo cups are heated with a taper and then applied to pressure points to encourage blood flow and ease aches and pains.

As the air in the cup cools, a vacuum is created and a few millimetres of skin are sucked into the cup. This anchors the cup to the body and leaves the round red marks sported poolside by the Chinese swimmers in the Beijing Olympics and on the red carpet by Gwyneth and Madonna.

The aim is to ease pain in the neck, shoulders and back, and increase energy levels, as well as help in the treatment of respiratory diseases.

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How does it work? The idea is to use acupuncture points to move blood, energy and fluids around the body and get rid of stagnation of any kind. About eight cups are applied in a vertical pattern on either side of the spine and left on the body in a bid to move energy in the area beneath them.

Strip off or cover up? Wear loose clothing so the back can be accessed.

Does it work? I felt rejuvenated afterwards, since the cupping was accompanied by a vigorous Thai massage. The whole effect was to ease an aching back and kick-start flagging energy levels. There's also a masochistic pleasure in forcing family and colleagues to view the resulting tell-tale red rings (these last for a week afterwards). The treatment doesn't hurt, but be prepared to look as if you've just wrestled with your Hoover.

Who is it for? Olympic swimmers or anyone keen to advertise their advocacy of the latest trendy treatment with a backless dress. Plus the rest of us with more mundane musculoskeletal conditions and winter colds to shift.

How much is it? Cupping can be done separately or as part of a Thai massage at 10 per 15 minutes. Cupping is an additional 3.

Shivago Thai Clinic at Buddhafield, 25 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh (07878 256174,

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