Cupping: An Olympian’s Secret?

The purple signature spots of cupping marked Michael Phelps’ body as he competed in Rio Olympics and this has sparked renewed interest in an ancient form of therapy known as cupping. This alternative medical practice is a unique technique used for treating everyday elements.

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping goes back centuries—it’s a part of the 2000-year-old Chinese traditional medicine system. Though it originated in China, it was practiced in regions around the world. It is believed that cupping was used in ancient Middle Eastern and European countries. It was even listed in the ancient Egyptian medical papyrus (circa 1500 BC) and mentioned by ancient Greek historians in 400 BC.

With cupping therapy, a trained specialist puts special cups on the patient’s skin, creating a vacuum suction that raises the skin, and then the therapist removes the cups after a few minutes. This process leaves behind a mark on the skin that takes a couple of weeks to disappear.

Dry Cupping

There are two types of cupping therapy—dry cupping and wet cupping. With dry cupping, a therapist puts “a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper in a cup and set it on fire.” As the fire goes out the air leaves the cup creating suction inside the cup. There is another form of dry cupping as well. With this method, a therapist uses specially made cups with a rubber pump that vacuums the air out of the cups.

Wet Cupping

Then there is wet cupping. Wet cupping involves some of the same methods as dry cupping, but there are some differences. The therapist makes a small incision in the patient’s skin and blood is drawn out using the suction from the cups. This is used to “detoxify” the blood.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy, particularly dry cupping, has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including aches and pains in your back, neck, shoulders, and limbs. It has also been used for acne and lumbar disc herniation. However, more research is needed to truly understand the effectiveness of this treatment. Also, there are some adverse effects of this practice including potential scarring and infections.

Are you interested in cupping therapy? Weigh the pros and cons first and be sure to talk to your doctor first about the treatment. If you are interested in other types of alternative medicine, consider acupuncture.