For many Americans cupping came to national attention during the 2016 Olympics when swimmer Michael Phelps’ back was seemingly peppered with welts. Phelps wasn’t the only Olympic athlete with round marks on their body. American gymnast and fellow Olympian Alex Naddour was also seen with the tell-tale marks of cupping. With any and all means of high-tech recovery and training techniques available to them, why do these and other athletes use cupping?
Cupping is a 2,000 year old Chinese medical practice where a flammable liquid is ignited inside the glass cup, heating it, and creating a vacuum when placed on the skin. Don’t worry – the flame doesn’t come anywhere the skin as it is quickly extinguished. The heated cup creates the needed suction against the skin pulling it away from the muscles and tendons encouraging blood flow to the cupped area. Practitioners describe the effects of cupping to that of a deep tissue massage.
Dr. Ayaaz Farhat, the co-director of the London Cupping Clinic described to The Independent that cupping, “encourages the inflammatory response of the body and speeding up muscular and soft tissue recovery after injury and strain. Cupping therapy has widened significantly though in the last few years and newer techniques are being used for conditions and diseases away from sports therapy such as migraines and eczema.”
Dr. Marina Ponton says, “It’s a simple technique that not complicated, is friendly to the body, and can help with pain.”
For Olympian Naddour, cupping is an important part of his training and recovery.
“That’s been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy,” Naddour told USA Today. “It’s been better than any money I’ve spent on anything else. It has saved me from a lot of pain.”
You don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to benefit from cupping. Suffers of chronic pain can find relief from cupping. While the bruising seemed prominent on the athletes, everyone’s reaction to cupping is different and may not be so pronounced. The bruising that does occur usually fades within two to four days.
While cupping has gained national attention due to the recent Olympics, cupping has helped people suffering with numerous ailments for centuries. It may not turn you into a 28 Olympic medal winner like Phelps, but instead give you something a whole lot better – relief from nagging pain.