Cupping, Explained

You have seen cupping on Micheal Phelps at the Olympics, but you may not have any idea what cupping is and why it leaves round marks on a persons body. The marks are the result of  a 2,000-year-old Chinese technique in which specialized glass or plastic cups are suctioned to the body with heat and air to increase muscular blood flow, thereby minimizing soreness and swelling and aiding healing. If you want to get more technical, cupping is said to decompress stiffened fascia, the connective tissue that stabilizes muscles and is prone to tightening during intense exercise. The treatment only lasts a few minutes, but that’s just enough time for surface capillaries to break, and a bruise to be left behind.

Phelps isn’t the only athlete who swears by the treatment. You’ll likely notice similar telltale marks on member’s of the men’s gymnastic team, too. And in 2004, Gwyneth Paltrow was also photographed with similar welts on her shoulders; Jennifer Aniston has also tried it.

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