Cupping: The Olympic Therapy

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The secret to success?

As American swimming star Michael Phelp’s 5 gold medals hit the headlines, something else distracted the interest of the public: the mysterious circular red marks on his back. Were these marks key to Phelp’s success? Now Cupping Therapy, an ancient Chinese Medicine technique practiced for thousands of years, has recaptured the public’s imagination.

But how does Cupping Therapy work?

Cupping Therapy is mostly practiced by Acupuncture practitioners. After soaking a cotton ball in alcohol, the cotton ball is lit and placed inside a round glass cup. After the glass is heated up, the practitioner removes the flame from the cup and quickly places it on a patient’s skin. This creates a vacuum within the cup which draws up and stretches the skin tissue. Once the air cools down, the skin contracts again. This process encourages the blood to flow from the body into the tissue, which in turn stimulates blood flow and supports its natural healing system. More specifically, the body is fooled into thinking it is injured and therefore starts an inflammatory response and mobilizes antibodies to the “injured” area created by cupping.

What are the benefits?

During the Olympics the cupping therapy became more and more popular because it’s supposed to help repair muscle fibres faster after a tough workout. However, cupping is able to treat many more conditions such as rheumatic pain, neck and shoulder pain, numbness of limbs and other kind of acute or chronic pain including menstrual pain, headache or back pain.

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What to expect?

If you are interested in giving the therapy a try here are a few things to know in advance.

  • Cupping will leave circular red marks on the area where the cupping was practiced, which are not comparable to bruises and therefore also don’t hurt.
  • The marks are temporary and will last for about a week.
  • Under the care of qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners Cupping is a very safe therapy and, depending on different body types, it can be used  once or twice every two weeks.
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