I Tried Cupping To Figure Out Why Justin Bieber Likes It So Much
There are some things that celebrities just know how to do better than regular people.
Like self-promoting, humble bragging, answering the same 10 questions over and over again, and taking care of themselves.
For some celebrities this includes unwinding with a casual pole dancing class or going on an endless amount of luxurious vacations around the world, but for Justin Bieber, it involves cupping, which sounds like some shamefully illicit sexual act that only happens after 3 a.m. when you’re borderline blackout, but is actually a form of Chinese medicine.
Dating back to ancient times, cupping therapy is a form of acupuncture, based on the idea that the suction from the cups mobilizes blood and energy around the body, which can alleviate back pain, deep tissue knots, stress and even the common cold.
And you know when somebody’s gotten it done because they look like they’ve gotten a bunch of hickeys from a girl with a perfectly circular mouth.
Obviously, if highly public celebrities like Justin were willing to walk around looking like they got assaulted with a Hoover, then I realized one of two things must be true.
Either cupping feels amazing, or it’s just really effective.
So as a woman with absolutely zero shame when it comes to hickey-shaped bruises, I decided to try it out myself.
I don’t like to brag, but I’m excellent at having panic attacks. In fact, my anxiety level is so high that even doing something as simple as taking the subway to go grocery shopping makes me so nervous that my heart starts beating uncontrollably, pinpricks ripple down my legs, and I feel like the next time I open my eyes, I’ll be on the ground, looking into the eyes of a stranger whose hand is wrapped around my cell phone, about to rob me.
As you can imagine, my upper back and shoulders reflect said amount of anxiety and stress, and feel more or less like a hard mass of marble some sculptor gave up on.
Like I said, I don’t like to brag, but I’m a piece of work.
As I was waiting for my cupping guru named Joannie to rescue me from myself, I slowly became consumed with the fear that cupping would be more painful than I could handle, but luckily, just as I was about to go out into full-blown anxiety mode, Joannie appeared to take me down a short hallway and answer all of my questions about how cupping worked.
“In Chinese medicine, your whole body is full of meridians, full of channels where chi and blood flow,” Joannie explained to me. “And what happens when you need acupuncture is that when the chi/blood flow is disrupted, when something’s stagnant or there’s blockage, that’s when you have either pain, disease or illness — something’s happened because the flow is being blocked.”
Joannie then told me that there’s a couple different types of cupping. There’s stationary cupping, fire cupping, air cupping, sliding cupping, and blood cupping (which yes, does involve making a small incision in your skin to let some of the bad blood get out of your system).
But we decided that I would do air cupping, which would involve Joannie using a handhold air pump to suction a little plastic cup to my back/shoulders.
From the looks of it, this is the kind of cupping that Justin gets too.
Although I was nervous lying down on the table, Joannie reassured me that “there’s really no pain involved, it just feels a little tight,” and then she told me that “it’s almost like a backwards massage,” which didn’t quite make sense to me, but the mere mention of the word “massage” was enough to assure me that I hadn’t made a huge mistake in agreeing to do this.
Sure enough, it didn’t hurt at all. At the most, as Joannie adhered each cup to my back, it felt like a gentle pinch. And the more cups she used, the more numb to the feeling I became. It just felt like there was a pressure holding my back together, which was a different sensation, but not a painful one.
Joanne explained that some of the tissue underneath the cups was turning especially dark, which was a sign that those areas of my back had more blockage than others.
After only 10 minutes, it was time to take them off, and even though Joannie told me that it was going to feel really good, I didn’t believe her.
And then she took them off and I felt like I’d died and gone to heaven.
Like, full disclosure, I’ve never tried heroin, but I imagine that this sense of instant bodiless bliss is more or less exactly what it feels like to shoot your arm full of poison.
Only you know, way less likely to kill you.
In the days to come, my stress levels would return to their abnormal level and my shoulders would feel more sore than usual, which Joannie assured me was normal.
“You have to do a series of cupping treatments,” she explained. “It’s not like you do it one time and feel amazing.”
Even though I didn’t have the time or money to make cupping a part of my weekly routine, after just one session I did walk away with the knowledge that I’d come for.
Celebrities like cupping because it feels really fucking good, even if just for a minute or two.