The therapy consists of having round glass suction cups that are warmed, then placed on sore parts of the body. The placement of the glass cup creates a partial vacuum, which is believed to stimulate muscles and blood flow while relieving pain.
Michael Phelps, US gymnast Alex Naddour and Belarus swimmer Pavel Sankovich have all posted pictures of their polka dotted limbs and backs.
Sankovich wrote earlier this summer on his Instagram account: “Cupping is a great recovery tool,” with a photo of his thighs covered in suction cups. Former Olympic swimmer, Natalie Coughlin has also previously posted pictures of herself going through a cupping therapy.
Phelps showed snippets of his cupping therapy on his Instagram as well as his Under Armour commercial.
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It’s not the first time cupping has made the rounds. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Simpson have all been spotted with the marks in previous years.
Cupping Started Over 2,000 Years Ago
The practice of cupping has been mentioned in ancient Greek and Egyptian texts.
In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping dates back at least 2,000 years, according to a 2012 analysis published in the journal PLOS One.
It is believed to restore the flow of “qi” — the life force.
In recent years, cupping therapy has been used for people suffering all sorts of ailments including shingles, facial paralysis, cough and difficulty breathing and acne. But cupping is most commonly used to treat pain, according to the analysis.
One small study on cupping
found that the cupping marks generally fade after two to four days.
So Does Cupping Actually Work?
In previous studies, cupping has been used for treating cancer pain and lower back pain. In both of the randomized clinical trials, groups that received the cupping therapy reported more favorable effects in pain relief.
But this is just two trials with small sample sizes, so the researchers wrote in 2011 that it’s hard to “draw firm conclusions” based on limited data, in a review published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Most published studies, however, focus on wet cupping, which is a form of medicinal bleeding. In this process, the skin is cut, and the blood is pooled into the suction cup.
Based on social media photos, the athletes have opted for the non-bleeding therapy, which is known as dry cupping.
So far, the repeated effect of cupping therapy over time is not known, but it’s generally believed to be safe, according to research published in 2012.
Personally, I’ve used it for many years now, and it’s truly helped with pulled muscles or other aches and pains I’ve had. Plus, not having to use any medicine is always a big plus for me. I stick with the dry cupping as cutting my skin just doesn’t work for me.
Many will easily point to Michael Phelps abundance of medals won at the Rio Olympics, but cupping is helping his recovery time only, it’s not giving him PED type results. Those results he pulls in have always been there for him. This is one treatment that will be extremely hard to ban since it’s drug-free, but I’m sure someone will try to raise a stink as people always do.