What You Need To Know: Cupping

Who has a body covered in dark spots and is the king of the water?

Introducing Michael Phelps, USA Olympic champion swimmer. While it may look like Phelps and several other Olympic athletes are slowly becoming Dalmatians, these dark purple dots are actually signs of “cupping”.

Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapeutic method developed thousands of years ago to promote ideal Qi—or life force. Today it’s used by elite athletes, celebrities, and your average 9-5 worker as a way to keep their muscles happy.

Cupping practitioners place specialized cups on the skin and use heat or an air pump to create suction. This suction pulls the skin slightly up and away from the muscle beneath while also stretching the muscle and fascia. Some people believe the stretching from cupping works faster and longer than massage!

Athletes like Phelps use cupping to help reduce soreness and get their muscles ready for competition. Practitioners believe suction created by cupping draws new blood to the targeted area, helping reduce soreness and speed healing. Dr. Kalichman believes cupping causes a local inflammatory reaction, pulling a variety of cells and other healing chemicals to promote even more healing.

Hold up. Did that just say inflammation? Why would inflammation be good?

Inflammation is our bodies first line of healing. The body releases a garrison of white blood cells, platelets, fibroblasts, and other healing chemicals to the area. That means muscle damage due to training or competing begins healing.

Although cupping is a hot topic in the Olympic crowd, you don’t have to be an elite athlete to reap the benefits of cupping. Do you have back pain? Join pain? Muscle pain? Muscle soreness? Do you sit at a desk all day? You’re the perfect candidate for cupping!

The next time I want to book a massage, I’m going to brave those oversized hickies and book an appointment for cupping! While I might not become the next Michael Phelps, I know my muscles will be thanking me.