If you tuned into the Summer Olympics in 2016, you were undoubtedly impressed by the staggering speed and impressive medal count of Michael Phelps. You probably also noticed the circular marks on the swimmer’s body. In fact, it seemed like those marks drew more attention than his medals!
What were those circles, anyway?
They were a clear sign that Phelps was using an ancient Chinese therapy known as cupping.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a form of therapy that began in ancient China. It involves the strategic placement of suction cups in varying sizes on the body. Once placed, the suction of the cups pull blood up to the surface of the skin, which helps to boost circulation and remove toxins, thereby improving recovery time and reducing aches and pains.
Though it has been used for centuries in China, it wasn’t until the 1950s that cupping became an official therapeutic practice. Due to the vast benefits that cupping provides, this form of therapy is making its way to the Western world and has become highly popular among celebrities – including Michael Phelps and other premier athletes, as well as well-known actors and actresses.
How does Cupping Work?
Traditionally, the process of cupping involves using small cups, which can be made of glass, bamboo, silicone or earthenware. The cups are filled with a flammable material, such as herbs or alcohol, and are ignited. Once the fire burns out, the cup is places upside down onto the skin. As the air inside the cup cooled down, a vacuum effect is created. The skin is lifted up into the cup and the blood vessels expand, causing the treated area to redden. Typically, the cups are left on for about 3 minutes.
The modern version of cupping uses silicone cups and a rubber pump to create the vacuum effect.
Whichever method is used, the application of the cups does not hurt. You will feel a tightening sensation in the location where the cup is placed, which many say feels soothing and quite relaxing.
After the session is completed, the cups are removed, leaving behind dark circles on the skin. The marks usually heal within 2 weeks.
The Benefits of Cupping Therapy
Though modern medicine isn’t entirely convinced about the benefits of cupping therapy, many scientists are admitting that, in the hands of an expert practitioner, it can provide a variety of benefits.
Some of the most notable benefits of cupping therapy include:
- Cupping has been used as a way to remove toxic substances from the body for centuries. Toxins are pulled toward the surface of the skin and are able to work their way out of the body.
- Improved energy levels. As toxins are drawn out of the body through cupping, energy levels increase.
- Aids in digestion. Cupping has been found to aid in digestion, as the toxins that can impede digestion are removed.
- Muscle recovery. Increased blood flow to the muscles allows for better circulation and faster, more effective muscle recovery.
- Eases aches and pains. Heightened blood flow reduces aches and pains that are associated with excessive muscle use, as well as a number of ailments; arthritis, for example.
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