Cupping Alternative Medicine

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Question: I’ve seen the purple circular bruises on Michael Phelps and other athletes at the Rio Olympics. The commentators have talked about them but I still don’t understand how the suction cups improve recovery. Can you elaborate?

Answer: Cupping, which has been around for centuries, requires special cups that either use a pump or a heat source to remove the air inside the cup as it is placed on the area to be treated. The resulting vacuum inside the cup lifts the skin away from the underlying muscle tissue which ruptures the capillary system inside the cup area ( leaving purple bruises).

The ruptured area has a greater blood flow. Increased blood flow means more waste, dead cells, lactic acid, etc. can be removed. In turn, more oxygen enriched blood returns into the area which carries nutrients and oxygen in greater than normal volume.

While the cupping process isn’t intensely painful, it is uncomfortable and some compare it to a deep tissue massage.

In 2010 the journal BMC of Complementary and Alternative Medicines reviewed 550 cupping-related studies and found that most of the studies showed benefit potential for painful conditions.

If you have a muscle or tendon like the IT band that is painful or strained then the increased blood flow in the area can have a positive result in faster recovery or pain relief similar to using deep tissue massage or hard roller therapy. To fully recover quickly hydration and sleep are essential parts of the equation whether your preferred method of recovery is cupping, rolling or massage.

God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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