If you have been watching swimming events at the Olympics this summer, you probably noticed the red circular blotches on some of the competing swimmers’ backs. No, those aren’t the tentacle marks caused by a fight with an octopus looking to win the gold, they are actually cupping circles.
Several of these swimmers, including record-setter Michael Phelps, sport these circles as a sign of cupping treatments, a process that opens up the pores in the skin in an effort to stimulate the flow of blood while forging an avenue for any toxins to leave the body. In essence, the Olympians are using it to better their bodies for the challenges ahead.
Although it is helpful to them, cupping is actually a superb medicinal process for anyone who is interested in an alternative form of pain relief.
The Benefits of Cupping
While the cupping process stimulates the flow of blood, it can also have the ability to create several health benefits. It is believed that the process of cupping drains the body of harmful toxins. In the early fourth century, cupping was believed to relieve headaches, dizziness and abdominal pain, says Acupuncture Today.
These days, while the belief still exists that it helps with these ailments, some health care professionals and acupuncturists believe that cupping can also treat myriad other conditions, including asthma, arthritis, gastrointestinal pain and even depression. Though it has been used to help with these issues, many athletes do it for the cleansing aspects.
How Does it Work?
The process of cupping is pretty simple. The cup is applied to the skin through suction created by an air pump (in more modern cups) or by heating the air within glass cups with fire and quickly applying to the skin. As the air cools, suction forms (traditional fire cupping method). Cups are removed after 5 to 15 minutes once stagnation appears on the skin surface underneath the cups, leaving the trademark red circular blotches that we have seen on the Olympians.
Another cupping style is to use fire cupping as a massage by applying therapeutic herbal oils on the skin and gliding the cup over the muscles, allowing treatment of a greater surface area. This method is great to relax tight muscles. This method reddens the skin, but does not leave the red/purple circles. So if you have an evening on the red carpet in a backless dress, unless you’re Gwyneth Paltrow, you may wish to opt for the massage style cupping over the stationary style!
Cupping is a relatively safe procedure, though there is always the chance of bruising or swelling for those with particularly sensitive skin. Depending on your own individual situation, cupping may be worth looking into, especially if you suffer from ailments such as constant headaches or depression and have tried other forms of treatment with little luck.
At WellStream Acupuncture, we take pride in providing a range of traditional Asian medicine and wellness treatments such as acupuncture, herbs, auriculotherapy, electro-stimulation, essential oils, tuning forks and cupping massage. If you want to enjoy our relaxing and pain-relieving acupuncture sessions, give us a call at 323-463-9355 today.