During the 2016 Summer Olympics many Americans were introduced to cupping therapy thanks to Michael Phelps, one of the world’s top, elite swimmers who has brought home a record amount of gold medals. Media paid close attention to this athlete and was naturally intrigued by the circular bruises that appeared on the swimmers back and shoulder areas. Come to find out, that he had been using cupping in addition to acupuncture to treat pain and to potentially enhance his performance during competition. We acupuncturists could not have asked for a better representative to highlight this unique therapy.
As practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we rely on cupping alongside of acupuncture, gua sha (check out my article on it under the blog area), massage, exercise therapy, herbs and supplements to treat musculo-skeletal problems. It acts as a gentle form of massage, freeing up myofascial tissue, stimulating circulation, and bringing Qi to the area. Some practitioners use fire to create a vacuum where others use a vacuum pump to get the cups to adhere to the treatment area. Very relaxing in effect, it surprisingly isn’t painful despite the fact it may leave some interestingly shaped bruises that make for great conversations starters!