Cupping: What Are Those Spots?

If you have been watching the Olympics, I am pretty sure you might be wondering what are those dark red spots on the Olympians shoulders and back. Some say it is hickeys, while others like to refer to them as huge cigarette burns. Fortunately, that is not the case. These spots are due to a cool technique called cupping.

What is cupping and how does it work?

Cupping is a technique that is mostly used in Asia and Middle Eastern countries, but most commonly in China. Cupping is a form of therapy that is done with a round-glass suction cup. Others might use bamboo or earthenware depending on preference. A flammable substance such as paper, herbs or even alcohol is placed in the cup and then set on fire. The cup is then warmed and placed on the sore parts of the body. This creates a partial vacuum that is said to help with blood flow and stimulating muscles. This helps to relieve pain due to soreness.

What else is it used for?

Previous studies have shown that cupping has been used for treating cancer pain and lower back pain. In both of the studies, it was reported that cupping did, indeed, help to relief pain. A 2012 study published by the journal PLoS ONE suggests that cupping therapy might be the new placebo effect. They concluded that cupping therapy could be effective with other treatments such as acupuncture or even medications in treating diseases and conditions.

Cupping is also used to treat:

  • Anemia
  • Hemophilia
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Fertility
  • Gynecological Disorders
  • Eczema
  • Acne
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Migraine
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Allergies
  • Asthma

Olympians such as Michael Phelps, Alex Naddour, and Pavel Sankovich have all posted pictures of cupping effects and seem to be happy with the results. Pavel Sankovich even went as far as posting on his Instagram account about the technique stating, “Cupping is a great recovery tool.” Michael Phelps also showed snippets of his cupping therapy on his Instagram.

It’s not the first time cupping has made the rounds in history. It has been around for a while and has been used worldwide. If a massage just doesn’t do it for your body anymore, cupping might be the technique to give a shot.