I've been loving watching the Summer Olympics these past couple of weeks. As a former competitive swimmer, I am enamored by the incredible skill and grace the athletes display, and I know the enormous amount of work and commitment they've invested in their sport.
I also knew, as soon as I saw the now famous round, red marks on Michael Phelps' shoulders, that he had been using 'cupping' as part of his training program.
Cupping is an ancient manual therapy, often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), that involves placing suction cups on the body to move 'qi', or energy, and improve symptoms of disease. In TCM, practitioners typically use glass or hard plastic suction cups and leave them in place for several minutes, resulting in the dark, red spots you've probably seen on Phelps and other olympic athletes (and some celebrities too).
For several years, I have used cupping in my practice to enhance the effects of bodywork, since the suction the cups create helps to increase circulation and release restricted connective tissue, or fascia. I prefer to use soft, silicone cups because they are usually not painful, and they rarely leave the dark, round 'cup kisses' on the body. As a massage therapist, I use the cups in a similar way that I use my hands.
Cupping is also effective for improving scar tissue such as from a cesarean surgery. Scar tissue can penetrate deep into the body and cupping lifts the layers of soft tissue and can impact multiple layers at once. It also improves lymph flow in areas where it is often restricted.
Curious about cupping and want to give it a try? We'd love to see you!