Another Celebrity Health Trend


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Last week, we started talking about how a lack of science can kill. One of these examples included blood-letting, either through Benjamin Rush's methods or the thousand-year-old practice of leeching. Of course, being someone who watches way too much E! News and reads the Daily Mail's entertainment section religiously, I immediately thought of Demi Moore's confession of her affinity for leeching back in 2008. I then thought about the other "celebrity medical trends" of the moment. But do these therapies have any merit? Do they really improve health and quality of life in such a way that the Average Joe (or Jennifer) should take note?
One of these trends is cupping therapy that has caught on with public figures such including AnnaLynne McCord, Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow. Cupping is an Arabic form of alternative medicine that uses glass cups to create local suction on different areas of the body to promote circulation. The suction is created by using a hand pump or heating the air within the cup before applying it to the skin. According to the British Cupping Society (BCS), cupping can be used to treat a variety of conditions including blood disorders, skin problems, fertility and rheumatic diseases. It is also claimed to improve "general physical and psychological well-being".
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The practice of cupping therapy dates back to 3000 BC, but is it effective for those in favor of alternative medicine in today's world or just a load of rubbish? According to a study published in The Journal of Pain in 2008, cupping therapy seems to be a reasonable approach to treating certain conditions. The study was an open randomized clinical trial with 52 participants, all of whom were suffering from neurologically confirmed carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). The experimental group received a single treatment of wet cupping and a subsequent bandaging of the wound to hide the tell-tale cupping welts that are a result of the suction. The control group on the other hand simply received local heat application on their shoulder. With these two groups, participants could at least be partially blinded. After 7 days, the patients were followed up on. The severity of CTS symptoms in the experimental group was significantly reduced, whereas the symptoms of the control group remained relatively the same. On a 95% confidence interval, the p-value was less than .001, leading to the conclusion that "cupping therapy may be effective in relieving the pain and other symptoms related to CTS". Another article published by The Journal of Pain in 2009 addressed the  merits of the 2008 study because of the presence of a control group. The author made a valid point saying, "All too often, we seem to either accept traditional treatments because "they have stood the test of time" or reject them untested as "old wives tales". Neither of these attitudes is advancing our knowledge."
So maybe Gwyneth, Posh and AnnaLynne all have the right idea about covering their backs in suction cups. Celebrities are often leaders when it comes to the latest fashion, exercise and diet, but what about alternative medicine? Would you ever try a health treatment popularized by your favorite celebrity? Or more importantly, would you do your research to make sure it's valid?

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