Although cupping therapy seems to be a recent phenomenon, it dates back to 1550 BC. Cupping is starting to gain popularity as a way to relieve aches and pains for top-performing athletes.

So what is cupping? What are all the benefits? And are there any side-effects?

Let’s go over some of the important details about cupping and what it can do.

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping therapy is a unique type of holistic healing that people often compare to massage therapy or acupuncture.

The therapist puts a flammable substance inside a glass, silicone, or sometimes a bamboo cup, and lights the substance on fire. Flammable substances often consist of oils, paper, herbs, or alcohol.

Here’s where it gets crazy:

The therapist then puts the cup onto a specific part of your body as the fire is going out. There is a vacuum being created as the cup cools down.

This vacuum starts to suck your skin into the cup which causes the skin to raise and redden as blood vessels expand.

Typically, the cup is left in place for about 3 minutes.

This process is repeated on any painful part of your body, with about 5 cups.

Benefits of Cupping Theraphy

The benefits of cupping therapy are numerous.

Many benefits of cupping therapy are similar to massage therapy and acupuncture since they are somewhat similar processes.

The suction and negative pressure of the cups are said to loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (this makes it a good treatment for high blood pressure).

Cupping is also used to relieve many aches and pains.

Cupping is typically used to relieve neck and back pain, although it’s not limited to just those areas.

Cupping can also relieve stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and cellulite!

Therapists will put oil on your skin and run the suctioned cup up and down on the affected area.

Following Meridian Lines

There are 5 meridian lines across the back where the cups are usually placed.

Holistic healers believe that placing the cups along these meridian lines will let energy flow more freely through you, while also removing chi blockages.

The suction that cupping therapy is able to achieve can actually reach the tissue 4 inches beneath the external skin. This creates excellent deep-tissue therapy.

Cupping on the meridian lines on the back allows toxins to be released, energy blockages to be cleared, and veins and arteries to be refreshed.

Other Cupping Therapy Benefits

Did you know…

Cupping is a common treatment for respiratory conditions.

Cupping is supposed to relieve congestion from a common cold or promote easier breathing for individuals with asthma.

Skin detoxifying benefits are also a common reason for trying cupping therapy.

People with digestive problems such as constipation can also benefit from cupping. Digestive benefits also include improved metabolism, a stronger digestive system, and a better appetite.

Athletes can specifically benefit from cupping because it can relieve muscle spasms.

Side Effects of Cupping Therapy

Side effects of cupping are rare, but they can occur.

Round bruises in the shape of the cup are often the most common side effect with cupping therapy. The bruises should fade within a couple of days. The bruises don’t necessarily hurt, but they can be startling to look at.

Other side effects include pain, swelling, burns, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, skin pigmentation, or nausea.

Cupping therapy should never be done on skin that is irritated or broken as that could cause you some pain.

Don’t replace cupping with any medication that you should be taking.

It is not suggested that children and pregnant women get cupping therapy.

How Can Athletes Benefit from Cupping Therapy?

Many people can benefit from cupping therapy, but athletes seem to seek its benefits more than others.

Cupping draws blood from your blood vessels and into your tissues. This process tricks the body into thinking that a certain area of your body has been injured. The body then sends antibodies to the area to try to heal it.

This process is really beneficial for athletes that are experiencing aches and pains from tough workouts or a particularly hard game or match, as cupping helps repair muscle fibers.

Injured athletes might try cupping as a faster way to recover and get back to the game. Although, cupping cannot replace the need for surgery or important medications. However, it can promote healing in a strained or pulled muscle.

If surgery is required, cupping can help an athlete heal faster. It will also reduce inflammation after surgery or from an injury.

Since cupping improves blood flow and circulation it helps improve the immune system as well. The entire body can benefit from using cupping therapy even in a specific area.

Athletes that experience plantar fasciitis can particularly benefit from cupping therapy. Cupping is a great way to alleviate the tension in the tissue that connects the heal to the toe. This will allow the athlete to train for longer periods of time without feeling pain in their feet.

Cupping has also been known to improve flexibility which can reduce the chances of injury.

Cupping can relieve muscle spasms which is particularly beneficial to athletes where total control of muscles is crucial.

Many people that experience chronic pain can also benefit from cupping since it relieves a lot of pain naturally.

Of course, athletes can also use cupping for any of the other previously mentioned benefits.

Olympians That Made the Most of Cupping Therapy

In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, many fans wondered what the circular bruises were on the gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps.

Fans and spectators started to notice the same markings on other swimmers during the same Olympic Games.

Fans soon learned that the marks were from cupping therapy and it shed some light on what exactly cupping is. Michael Phelps says, “I’ve done it before meets, pretty much every meet I go to.”

Alex Naddour, a US Olympic gymnast who has also been seen with the same markings, says cupping “provides him with the relief from the soreness and pounding that comes from gymnastics.”

Many other athletes that are less universally known use cupping as a way to quickly recover from surgery, relieve sore muscles, and improve circulation and flexibility.

Cupping is considered an alternative healing method, much like massage therapy or acupuncture.

Many people seek this kind of treatment as a way to naturally feel pain relief and quickly recover from injuries.

More and more athletes have started using cupping as a way to help them perform at their peak.

So, do you think cupping is a fad or a legitimate way for athletes to perform at their best?

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