Cupping: It's an ancient Chinese practice that's gaining traction in the Western world, even among celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow. Dr. Thoa Ho, who specializes in oriental medicine at the Element Wellness Center in South Tampa, grew up using the therapy.
"Anytime when we had any sort of heat in our body or phlegm or asthma, they would have cupping on our back. And my first thought was like, who would want to do cupping? It looks very painful and it leaves such big red marks at the end, but you feel so much better," she explained.
The trademark bruising didn't scare Gunther Lissl away from the treatment. He's been using cupping along with acupuncture to help heal scar tissue on his back.
Cupping begins by placing alcohol on a cotton swab and then lighting it on fire. The heat from the flame creates a vacuum inside the cupping glasses, which are then applied onto the problem area.
"It raises about five inches of flesh up, and when it does, that it detoxes the body, it pulls the muscle fibers away from the tissue, it gets all the toxins out via the pores," Dr. Ho said.
Cupping is used to treat coughs, pain, scarring, infertility, and most recently, fibromyalgia. Each session lasts about 45 minutes and costs anywhere from $50 to $100.
The procedure looks uncomfortable; however, Gunther said it's not that bad.
"I don't think it's painful at all, it just feels like a little bit of pressure," he said.
One of the down sides to cupping is the temporary marks.
"You'll definitely bruise because we're gonna break up the scar tissue that you have," Dr. Ho told Gunther.
He said the relief he gets is worth it.
"Pain is a heck of a motivator and at some point you get tired of living with it so you do whatever you need to to get over it," Gunther explained.
Dr. Maria Carmen Wilson is a board certified neurologist at Tampa General Hospital. She argued that there is more work needed to prove if and how cupping works.
"We like to see the evidence," she said, "Show me the evidence. We don't have the evidence. This is not something we use in our clinic. We have so many other techniques that have been validated, that we concentrate on those."
However, Gunther said he doesn't need to see any further studies.
"I was definitely a huge skeptic at the beginning and it proved to work on me, so there's gotta be something to it."
Dr. Ho recommends combining acupuncture with cupping and adds that repeating the treatments are key to success. She says this ancient practice is certainly leaving its mark on modern medicine.