Those bruises look like they might have hurt! If you’re one of the people who was looking at our competitive athletes, especially the swimmers, at this summer’s events, you may have had this thought.
By now, you have probably seen the articles (like this one http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/08/what-are-the-purple-dots-on-michael-phelps-cupping-has-an-olympic-moment/?_r=0) that mention “cupping” as a visible intervention that our athletes have used this year in Rio. It may surprise you to learn this isn’t a new strategy.
China has been practicing a version of cupping for over three thousand years. A number of practitioners in many cultures, Eastern and Western, have also adopted this method for increasing blood flow to injured or compromised areas.
According to WebMD, it works like this: “During both types of cupping, a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper is placed in a cup and set on fire. As the fire goes out, the cup is placed upside down on the patient’s skin.
As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum. This causes the skin to rise and redden as blood vessels expand. The cup is generally left in place for five to 10 minutes.
A more modern version of cupping uses a rubber pump to create the vacuum inside the cup. Sometimes practitioners use medical-grade silicone cups. These are pliable enough to be moved from place to place on the skin and produce a massage-like effect.”
While cupping is not used as a standalone therapy, it can be beneficial for some people. The professionals at Applied Physical Medicine and Tygiel Physical Therapy will be happy to discuss with you if it is an option that might benefit you. We do have a certified provider who is able to administer this treatment. Our doctor reminds us: “It is a superficial treatment that helps to breakup topical tissues and the associated adhesions and bring blood flow to the tissue.”