For the past week, it has felt like someone stabbed me in the left glute with Rambo’s knife, then dragged its serrated edge down the length of my left leg. In other words, like millions of other Americans, I am experiencing sciatic nerve pain (aka sciatica). It’s due to a herniated disk in my lower back that’s clamping down on a nerve root, and frankly, it fucking hurts.

Which is why I am now lying facedown on a massage bed at Worksong, a small clinic in Brooklyn, NY, that specializes in Chinese medicine. The vibe here is decidedly tree-hugger chic. It’s the kind of place with a “give what you can” payment structure and plenty of green tea and Deepak Chopra books in the waiting room. But I’m trying to keep an open mind. My shirt is off, and I’ve got six glasses arranged on my lower back, lightly tugging at my skin. It’s a treatment known as cupping, and I’m hoping it will alleviate this (literal) pain in my ass. If you, too, are wondering whether cupping is the answer to your body’s problems, read on.