With Michael Phelps being in the spotlight during the Olympic Games, everyone has been noticing these reddish/purple circular marks on his shoulders and back.
Today, I am going to answer everyone’s burning question: What the heck are those purple marks, and why would an Olympic swimmer want to look like he got attacked by an octopus?
The marks you see are caused by a form of soft tissue therapy called CUPPING. To further explain the technique of cupping, I am going to compare it to traditional massage, a soft tissue therapy which most people are familiar with. Please keep in mind I am in no way knocking massage, simply comparing an unfamiliar modality to a familiar one.
Massage, or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) has been used for decades as a form of therapy and there is a ton of science to back up it’s effectiveness. When a practitioner is performing massage or IASTM they push into the tissue and create micro-trauma, which initiates a healing response to that specific area. In comparison, cupping is creating the same micro-trauma but instead of pushing down into the tissue, the cupping is pulling up on the tissue for a certain amount of time. Pulling up on tissue creates a very different response in the human body than pushing. Pushing condenses the tissue, while pulling expands them. The expansion of tissue creates more space for fluid and blood to flow, and is why cupping can be the better choice over massage or IASTM, in many situations.
If you had a pillowcase that was overstuffed and stiff, the best option to create a softer pillow would be to create a bigger pillow case. This is exactly what cupping does for our body.
Cupping has been used for well over 2000 years as a form of treatment for a variety of issues ranging from pain management to anxiety/depression disorders. In this specific situation, the cupping is likely being used to help Phelps increase blood flow to the area, improve his range of motion/balance the shoulder joint and promote faster recovery. A hard concept to fully understand, cupping has deep roots within Oriental Medicine and most westerners want scientific evidence to back up the claims. Here’s the problem, the stagnation of Qi (energy) flow is not measurable with scientific methods.
The proof is in the results.
Personally, I have been utilizing cupping in my rehabilitation practice for over 2 years, and because of it’s effectiveness cupping has become the primary form of treatment in my office. The reason it is my #1 go-to for treating chronic neck, shoulder, knee and low back pain……is because it works, really well. So well that sometimes my patients are feeling significantly better after the very first treatment.
With all of these things said, DO NOT go out and buy yourself a set of cups. People can’t just place cups on their back/leg/shoulder/etc and expect miracles. It takes a trained professional to know where the cups should go in order to get the appropriate response. Contact us at (630) 442-7959 to set up an appointment to see if cupping is the right therapy for you.