If you have been watching the Rio Olympics, you might be curious as to why Michael Phelps and other notable Olympians are sporting big, purple circles on their limbs or midsections. The mysterious round circles on these athletes are the result of “cupping.”
WHAT IS CUPPING?
Cupping is an ancient therapy that involves placing specialized cups on the skin that use heat or an air pump to create suction between the cup and the skin. This pulls the skin slightly up and away from the underlying muscles and into the cup.
There are then further variations to the process of cupping. Stationary cups, also known as “dry cups,” are left on the skin for a period of time. On the other hand, moving cups, also known as “wet cups,” allow the cup to be moved across the skin to cover a greater area. Bleeding cupping involves acupuncture needles that break the skin, so when a cup is placed over the area it draws a small amount blood out of the tissue.
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF CUPPING?
Jason Gauruder, Beaumont Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Specialist, explains the most important benefit of cupping is its ability to draw blood to the affected area to “increase circulation and encourage the body to repair the damaged tissue.” While there is not much scientific evidence to determine the actual benefit, athletes who enjoy cupping say it keeps them injury free and can promote a speedy recovery for overworked muscles.
Gauruder explains further that a good example of this is the knot you feel in your neck or back after sleeping in an uncomfortable position:
“These knots can push on nerves that are running through the area causing pain. Cupping manually increases the circulation by breaking up these adhesions and drawing the circulation back into the area to clear out the damaged tissue and aid in the restoring of new healthy tissue. Tissues and muscles in your body operate better when they have a healthy supply of oxygen and blood flow to support them.”
HOW LONG IS THE TREATMENT AND HOW IMMEDIATE ARE RESULTS?
Cupping usually lasts anywhere from 5 - 10 minutes. Many people can feel the results almost immediately after the treatment. Similar to a massage, some people may feel some soreness immediately after the procedure that improves with rest, usually within 24 hours.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM CUPPING TREATMENTS?
Athletes that are constantly training can benefit the most from cupping because they are always doing some micro trauma to their muscles and tendons. However, you don’t have to be taking home gold medals to benefit from cupping. According to Gauruder, “people with chronic pain, trauma from a car accident or fall, or simply waking up with a wry neck are all good candidates for cupping.”
IS CUPPING SAFE?
Gauruder explains that while skeptics and non-clinical personnel will say there is no science behind the method of cupping, it is “perfectly safe to try to help with everyday aches and pains as well as other injuries.”
Many cultures have embraced the practice for a very long time, and today Olympic athletes and other pro-athletes use these techniques in conjunction with massage and acupuncture. Gauruder believes athletes continue to embrace and praise the benefits from cupping “because it uses your own body to promote healing.”
IS CUPPING PAINFUL?
“Cupping involves slight pinching of the skin as it is drawn into the cup,” says Gauruder. If the suction is too uncomfortable for the patient, Gauruder explains that the cups can easily be readjusted to fit a person's comfort level. The bruises from cupping are not painful and last about a week, so don’t do it the week before if you plan on being photographed and don't want cupping marks on your skin.
For more information about cupping or to make an appointment at one of our locations (Royal Oak, Troy, Rochester Hills, Grosse Pointe or West Bloomfield), call 248-964-9200.