As the world is glued to their television sets for this summer’s Olympic Games, many are noticing sets of rings that aren’t the medals themselves, or the symbolic rings of the Games. Even before I thought to write this piece I was noticing the circular reddish maroon spots on the backs and shoulders of athletes such as (most notably) Michael Phelps. They look almost like welts after being struck by a paintball, or even circular burn marks. The bruising we see, however, is not inflicted pain – it is actually quite the opposite.

Olympians have taken to the ancient therapy of cupping, a practice we do here at Portsmouth Physical Therapy as well.  This myofascial cupping (or yes, ‘cupping’ for short) is a treatment that uses suction to lift tissue on sore spots of the body. The placement of the cup creates a sort of vacuum, stimulating muscles and blood flow to relieve pain.  The Olympians and their trainers see cupping as a tremendous recovery tool, here’s why

– It activates fiber within connective tissue to permit retention of water.

– It works to break down scar tissue.

– Creates the muscles to be seemingly more ‘fluid’.

In all, cupping is used to stretch tissue for increased range of motion, increase blood supply in the sore area, and speed up the recovery process for injured areas. While it may look a little strange, given all of the potential benefits, who wouldn’t want to use cupping to treat their sore body parts?

Published August 10, 2016 | Posted in Portsmouth PT Blog Posts.