If you’ve been watching the Rio Olympics, you might have noticed that some of the athletes, including Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, have a number of odd purple bruises on their bodies.
While some people were concerned Phelps and others had gotten involved in some sort of strange self-abuse, the round bruises are actually the result of a healing technique known as cupping. The gymnastics team captain, Chris Brooks, and American gymnast Alex Naddourr have also been seen with cupping marks.
Referring to the practice, Naddour told USA Today, “That’s been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy. It’s been better than any money I’ve spent on anything else.”
Cupping involves heating up small glass cups and then putting them onto the skin, and pulling them away from the body to help loosen and relax muscles by promoting blood flow.
It seems to be working. The U.S. men’s gymnastics team finished second during the qualifying round at the 2016 Olympics, and swim team members Michael Phelps and Nathan Adrian, who also uses cupping, managed to secure gold medals in the 4×100-meter freestyle relay.
Many massage therapists and other alternative health practitioners are including it as part of their practice. It makes sense as cupping is kind of the inverse of massage. Instead of apply pressure to muscles, the suction uses pressure to pull the skin, tissue and muscles upward. It’s a practice that was developed thousands of years ago, and while techniques have been modernized, the original philosophy is still the same.
Olympic athletes certainly aren’t the only ones to experience the many benefits of cupping, famous celebrities like actress Gwyneth Paltrow walked the red carpet with noticeable cupping marks on her back, and former “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston wore a strapless black dress to a movie premiere recently that showed cupping marks too.
These nine reasons might just convince that you should try cupping too.
9 Remarkable Benefits of Cupping Therapy
1. Pain relief
Pain relief is one of the main reasons people use cupping. An analysis of multiple clinical trials published in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine showed that compared to traditional treatments, cupping offered positive effects for relieving cancer pain compared to analgesics and anti-cancer drugs.
Cupping targets soft tissue with pressure applied to pain points and areas of swelling. This helps to increase blood flow and give the tissues important nutrients and oxygen. It’s believed to help release tissues deep within the body, relax tense muscles and ease stiffness that’s often associated with neck and back pain, migraines and rheumatism. Practitioners use pressure along with heat and suctioning (and sometimes needles), near the site of the injury. This allows energy to flow along the meridians, or channels, which pass through the injury.
2. Relieve cold, cough and allergy symptoms
Cupping can help to stimulate the lungs (as well as other vital organs) to help clear out phlegm. Excess phlegm in the lungs triggers coughing to help bring it out of the body. The practice of cupping can help speed the process to relieve one of nasty cold, cough and allergy symptoms. It also helps boost immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body.
3. Promotes relaxation
In today’s chaotic world, all of us can use a little time for relaxation. If we don’t take time to relax, the constant stress can lead to a host of health conditions, including mental issues like anxiety and depression. Similar to receiving a deep tissue massage which offers wonderful, relaxing relief, cupping is soothing as it helps to lift the pressure from tense muscles.
The act of simply lying still and allowing a practitioner to apply the therapy has positive effects on well-being, and believed to be another factor in why cupping is often so effective. After the cups are placed on the skin and suctioned, they generally remain for as long as 20 minutes, which basically forces one to be still and silent, putting them into a more relaxed state as it sedates the central nervous system.
Poor circulation can lead to buildup of toxins inside of the body’s tissues. This buildup can be the root cause of many different health conditions. Cupping helps to improve stagnation, while the blood rushing to the area that’s being treated carries away toxins. Along with those toxins, it helps to clear dead cells and other debris. All of these elements are then expelled naturally. That’s why drinking lots of water after a cupping session is a good idea for flushing away those impurities and promoting better health.
5. Inducing inflammation to heal injuries faster
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense mechanism, which helps kick things into action to help heal illness and injury. If you suffer from a muscular injury, the first thing you probably do is rush to get an ice pack, but when it’s allowed to become inflamed, that actually helps to flood the injured muscle with blood, along with nutrients, platelets, white blood cells and fibroblasts to aid in healing. Cupping therapy works much the same way by drawing blood to the affected area so that new blood vessels can be created. It helps to heal knots and adhesions, which is why so many athletes have been turning to this therapy. It helps their body to recover faster from intense workout sessions.
6. Improve skin conditions
Cupping has been used to help with a host of skin conditions, including eliminating acne and eczema, reducing skin inflammation, lessening herpes breakouts and even diminishing cellulite. In the case of eczema, suction is applied on points on the body, such as the top end of the spinal cord, below the knee, or above the ankle. It’s used to treat acne by cupping the affected area and even nicking the skin in order to remove the breakout.
As part of a cellulite treatment, cupping is done after oil is applied to the skin. The cups are then suctioned and moved around to bring heat to the area, along with the skin-healing ingredients of the particular oil that’s used.
An analysis of studies published in PLOS One found that cupping may be equally or even more effective for treating acne as compared to antibiotics. The studies showed that the cure rate of cupping for improving acne was better than the use of prescription medications like tetracycline.
Cupping therapy is based on the belief that disease results when the positive energy that flows through the meridians of the body is blocked. Removing that congestion than induces the body to heal itself. Cupping draws blood to the affected area, energizing skin tissues. That blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients, while the lymphatic system produces antibodies that are need for healing. The blood flow also works to detoxify, as stated earlier, removing pathogens that cause skin conditions.
7. Relieving digestive disorders
Cupping is also becoming a popular practice for relieving symptoms of digestive disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. It’s believed to work partly because of the stress-relieving effects of cupping, which has been strongly linked to healthier digestion.
Stress, tension and anxiety are all communicated to organs throughout the body, including digestive processes. When that happens, things start to get congested, and as a result, you feel bloated and constipated. Cupping releases the stagnation, helping to get things moving along, and relaxing you so that systems function normally again.
The therapy has been found to be effective for water retention, diarrhea, stomach cramps, gastritis, loss of appetite and a host of gastrointestinal diseases.
Cupping has been found to offer anti-aging effects like fighting wrinkles. It brings more nutrients to the skin, which helps give it a glowing, younger appearance. In addition, products that are used after the treatment, such as lotions, essential oils and such, are absorbed better, and therefore, more effective.
The lifting motion that comes with suctioning helps to reduce visible fine lines and wrinkles. It can even lessen the appearance of scars that are the result of injury or acne. The connecting tissues underneath facial skin are stimulated, helping to reduce smile and laugh lines, and, if you’re suffering from puffiness, it can help drain fluid in the lymph glands that result in reduced edema.
The massaging movements alone are known to help relax tense facial muscles, which results in younger, and even softer looking skin. Whether your skin is dry or oily, cupping can offer these outstanding aesthetic benefits. And, it’s all natural – no knives or lasers necessary.
9. Treating carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that can interfere with hand strength and sensation, and even result in a decrease in hand function. It’s said to affect some 4 to 10 million Americans, with females three times more likely to suffer from it than males.
The condition disables a key nerve which results in symptoms that can range from mild numbness felt occasionally to hand weakness or even the loss of feeling and total loss of hand function.
The good news is that you may be able to find relief through cupping. A study out of Germany, published in The Journal of Pain, showed that the technique was effective for providing temporary relief of pain from carpal tunnel syndrome. Just a single session was able to significantly ease pain and symptoms for a week, according to the researchers.
The study authors noted three possible explanations for the positive therapeutic effects, including that the therapy may be providing a powerful placebo effect, cupping may offer antinociceptive effects, or the local bloodletting caused by cupping may have altered tissue perfusion and metabolism to affect medial nerve function.