In case you haven’t already read the headlines, cupping is a therapy where a practitioner uses small, glass cups placed over his skin and induced a vacuum inside the cup by heating the air. That suction pulls the skin, breaking capillaries and causing blood to pool and ultimately cause a bruise.
It’s a Chinese medicine practice that’s part of the acupuncture family, and it made waves some time ago when Gwyneth Paltrow first appeared with the tell tale marks on her toned back. Other celebrity fans include Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham and Andy Murray.
So what does it do? Well, the idea is that it helps with everything from circulation to neck and shoulder pain, and detox. In the case of fitness pros like Phelps, it’s also believed to help the muscles to recover more quickly after exercise, thus theoretically improving performance.
In an article by Pharmacologist David Colquhoun in The Independent last week, he described the practice as “a prescientific medical practice that started in a time when there was no understanding of physiology.” Rather damningly, he actually said: “out of all the snake oil techniques I’ve come across as a pharmacologist and someone whose job it is to debunk pseudoscience, cupping may be one of the silliest.”
He also points out that at the level Olympians are competing, any tiny fluctuation in routine can have a big impact, but it’s impossible to measure the causes.
On the flip side, Dr Ming Cheng, associate professor of traditional Chinese medicine at Middlesex University told The Telegraph that “Cupping is a modality of acupuncture and has been around for more than 2,000 years. It’s good therapy for musculoskeletal problems, particularly muscle strain and tension, neck pain, frozen shoulder, lower back pain, sciatica, sports injuries, tendonitis and tennis elbow… we can also use it to treat indigestion.”
On a personal note, we’re pretty big fans of complementary therapies used responsibly, so as with so many of these things, it seems to be a case of giving it a go and seeing what works for you!
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.