Why do some of the world’s top athletes look as though they’ve been on the receiving end of a brutal paintball firing squad?
US swimmer Michael Phelps’s skin is strewn with livid polka dots, and his compatriot, the gymnast Alex Naddour is also sporting circular welts.
But this is not the result of a corporate team-building exercise. The athletes are among the latest adherents to the traditional Chinese medicine treatment known as “cupping”.
Cupping is one of the best therapies around. It is a proven method for effectively treating illness and disease, as well as for muscle injury, overuse or poor circulation. A partial vacuum is created in a cup placed on the surface of the skin over an area that features enough soft tissue (without hair) to allow the cup to adhere.
A gentle vacuum is created by using a pump attached to the stem of the cup. The cup is applied directly to the skin and the underlying tissue is drawn up into the cup. Cups are left on anywhere from 5-15 minutes, sometimes resulting in circular bruises that vary in color from light red to red to purple. The skin and muscle are not damaged and any bruises that form fade within a few days.
The earliest written record of cupping in Chinese Medicine is from silk texts, discovered in a tomb said to be sealed in 168 B.C.E. Throughout the ages, cupping has been used to treat headaches, muscle aches and pains, respiratory conditions such as asthma, abdominal pain, digestive problems, the common cold, menstrual disorders, dizziness, and skin conditions. More recently it is also used in the treatment of anxiety.
Cupping continues to be one of the most effective musculo-skeletal therapies available. Whether you’re a competitive athlete, weekend warrior or simply an active person who occasionally overdoes it, cupping will help you feel better immediately.