By now surely you’ve noticed the cupping marks on Michael Phelps! Every night he appears to have more round circles dotting his shoulders and upper back. Some of you may not know what cupping is, or that it is one of the facets of Traditional Chinese Medicine along with acupuncture and herbal medicine. More recently the popularity of cupping has spread as it is being understood for its benefits in muscle recovery after strenuous workouts.
Cupping is akin to attaching a suction cup to the skin which when applied correctly will pull what we call in Chinese Medicine, “stuck blood,” to the surface. Pulling on all these inflammation byproducts and getting them out of the muscle and closer to the surface allows for increased circulation in the affected area. Better circulation in the muscle tissue results in more oxygen coming in and a decreased healing time.
What you see in the dark circles that remain after treatment is the “stuck blood.” You could say that the darker the circles, the more stagnation was present. These bruises diminish over a couple days and are typically not painful at all. It is certainly fun to see top Olympians utilizing such a time-honored and common practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you haven’t had it done before – just ask! It feels wonderful and helps relax those tight back muscles. Even if you get them from sitting at the computer and not sprinting 200meter butterfly!