The “Cupping” Phenomenon – Just a craze or a practical practice?

Most of us were introduced to the practice of “cupping” during the recent 2016 Olympics when the most decorated athlete of all time had some strange markings on his back and stomach. When swimmer Michael Phelps shattered records and dominated the Rio Games, many of us wondered about those weird, purplish, bruise-like, circular blotches seen on all over his body.


The rumors of injuries were quickly replaced with the revelation of something called “cupping,” and some conspiracy theorists wondered if he was using an unknown cheating method in order to bolster his performance to get the gold. So, the question remains: what is “cupping”? And did it help him to bring home the gold unfairly?

But What Exactly is the “Cupping” Process?

Tied closely to acupuncture, cupping is an ancient Asian treatment used to alleviate muscular pain, especially for young athletes with a tendency to push their bodies to the limits. When utilizing this type of treatment, a qualified practitioner soaks a cotton ball in alcohol, applies flame to it and contains it quickly inside of a cup. The cup is then pressed to the skin. Once removed, it’s said the skin exposed to these flames begins to cool and contract. Advocates of this process report the stretching and contraction of the skin increases blood flow and enhances the healing process.

Celebrities Climbing on Board

Nothing makes a fad grow faster than celebrity endorsements, but does this type of praise make it a fleeting fallacy or a factual treatment for muscle aches and pains? If you’re following trends, stars climbing aboard this bandwagon include, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Justin Bieber and Gwyneth Paltrow who have been seen showing off these marks left over from their cupping treatments.

Is Cupping A Quick Cure to the After-effects of a Hard Workout?

It depends upon whom you believe and if these treatments will enhance your workout regimen or hinder your progress. Think of it this way, while modern medicine often scoffs at the practice of acupuncture, it has still has offered thousands, if not millions of patients pain and strain relief for joints and muscles, and is a viable alternative choice for stress and strain. It’s also a relaxation technique and calming method for other patients.

Some swear by it, while others file it away as another fad. At least these athletes and celebrities aren’t using performance enhancing drugs, steroids and other illegal substances to boost their workout routines. There’s some validity found in that fact and these people aren’t reporting any side effects from these treatments, other than some leftover marks on their bodies.


When you think about it, physicians and people have been scoffing and slamming the practice of acupuncture for centuries. Other medical professionals will shun vegan and vegetarian diets, calling it a form of malnutrition. Whether it’s opinion-based or something established in fact, it depends on what – or who – you want to believe.

You have to ask yourself some important questions … will this type of treatment work for me? Is it conducive to what I’m looking for in terms of long-term results? Does it fit into my workout regime and could it offer results after a Total Gym experience? Have people that I actually know and trust used this method with positive results? Do other professionals that I see on a regular basis recommend this type of treatment?

These questions can only be answered with more research and in-depth discussions with your friends, professionals and those you trust given your own unique situation. Talk about this openly with these people and see if this is something that could benefit you personally, athletically and for your overall health.

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