I am now living in Korea and have seen regularly these circular red shapes on the back of Korean people. Here is a picture. Sorry for the low quality, it is difficult for me to take a picture of someone in a spa, so I had to resort to take a photo from a public Instagram account):

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What are these red marks?

I saw them on both men and women, young and old people. They all look healthy at the time of the picture. I could not inspect the marks closely, but they seemed perfectly circular. They were always restricted to the back of the person, and there were always several of them, more or less regualarly organized.

My best guess is a vaccination mark.

Note: as I don't really have any idea of what it is, I have difficulties to find relevant tags. Any help is welcome.


Disclaimer: we cannot give individual medical advice or diagnoses. This is a general discussion.

What you are describing is most consistent with bruising left by the process of cupping. Cupping is a common treatment involving suction. It is used in integrative medicine practices, and is very common in some Asian regions. It has been used for ages, and some studies have even shown some statistically significant positive effects. There are several proposed mechanisms of action, including increasing localized circulation and drawing tension from muscle/fascia. It has commonly been misinterpreted as illness or abuse by those unfamiliar with it.

  • I agree with the visual identification. But: "treatment" That is a quite generous description for "it breaks the tissue and vessels, is a form of volitional injury". I cannot convince myself to agree with "statistically significant positive effects". From your list, PMID: 29185802. In my view this is a hybrid of acupuncture and bloodletting. Aug 25 '18 at 12:12
  • I work with practitioners who use it and have even had it done myself for muscle pain. I'm not suggesting it is appropriate for every condition, or for every patient, but as I said SOME have shown significant benefits. For integrative/complementary medicine, the current position of most medical societies in the USA is not to withhold or stop regular medical therapy, but to use it as adjunct in situations where it is not harmful and may have potential benefit. I am not advocating the practice, especially by those not trained in proper diagnosis and application, but explaining it.
    – DoctorWhom
    Aug 26 '18 at 17:57

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