The 37-year-old actress, known for roles on Freaks & Geeks and CougarTown, was at her acupuncture appointment on Tuesday when she decided to try the ancient Chinese therapy.
“I want to kind of try to show you how gnarly it is,” she told fans on her Instagram story later in the evening. “Oh my God it’s all down my back.”
Philipps later posted a photo of the pepperoni-like marks on her shoulder — which she noticed matched the circles on her bra strap.
She also mentioned in the photos caption that her 8-year-old daughter Birdie had seen the deep red circles on her body and wondered if it was the same thing 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps did during the 2016 Rio Olympics. “I was weirdly proud of her for remembering that,” wrote Philipps, who is also mom to 3-year-old daughter Cricket.
While cupping had been seen on celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Aniston in the past, it made national headlines during Phelps record-breaking Rio run. (American gymnast Alex Naddour was also spotted in Rio with cupping marks).
The process, also known as myofascial decompression, is thought to increase blood circulation and release muscle tension.
It involves heating small glass cups and then placing them on the skin. They remain there for a few minutes before being pulled from the body to loosen and relax muscles. “It can be used on anyone, really, from Olympic athletes to a 59-year-old desk worker with back pain and stiffness,” Michael Mancuso, a physical therapist in New York City who specializes in the technique, previously told PEOPLE.
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Cupping has a variety of uses. “It can be used as a massage technique, it can stretch the tissue out, it can bring local inflammation to an area for healing, or even break up scar tissue after surgery,” Mancuso explained. “What you’ve been seeing with the Olympic athletes is probably used to either warm up the muscles before an event, or to release tension afterwards.”
While a person may experience temporary pain, “most patients feel immediate relief, and feel looser with increased ranges of motion,” he said.