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What the Cup Are All Those Circles on Your Back?

Cupping is becoming more and more mainstream, especially after the Rio 2016 Olympics, where Michael Phelps (along with other athletes) was spotted with circular bruises all over him. Professional and amateur athletes are swearing by this recovery technique. So what's it all about?

Therapeutic cupping has been around for over 3,000 years (seriously, the Egyptians really don't get enough credit) and is commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Similar to most alternative medicines, there are different techniques and styles of cupping. This is dependent on the preference of your provider and what particular injury or problem they are trying to address. The cups you will find in America are typically made of glass or plastic. Suction is created either by heating the air inside the cup (removing oxygen and creating a vacuum) or by fitting the cup onto a pump that sucks the air out.

Once the cups are attached to you, they are left on for anywhere between five and fifteen minutes (or more as recommended by your provider). According to Acupuncture Today, "drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body." Oil may also be used in order to provide "massage cupping" which is where the cups are moved around on the skin. This is thought to allow the release of soft tissue while bringing blood and lymphatic fluid into the skin and muscle.

And those circles? They're caused by toxins and blood being brought up to the surface of the skin. They usually fade in about a week (and make a great conversation piece at the pool in the meantime!).

According to the sources listed at the end of this article, the following are all potential benefits of cupping. 

• Deep tissue release
• Inflammation relief
• Stretching muscle and connective tissue
• Loosening of adhesions
• Strengthening of immune system
• Treatment respiratory conditions
• Reduction of swelling
• Improvement of metabolism (may relieve constipation and improve appetite)
• Skin detoxification
• Improved blood flow in veins and arteries
• Relief from muscle spasms

There are different types of providers who use cupping techniques, such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, or massage therapists. Make sure you find one you can trust if you are interested in trying it out! 

Have you tried cupping? How was your experience, did you find it beneficial? Tell us in the comments below!

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The following sources were utilized in this article:

Acupuncture Today. "Cupping". http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/abc/cupping.php. October 2017. 

aworldofacupuncture.com. "Cupping Therapy". http://aworldofacupuncture.com/index.php/main/tcm-practices-and-news/28-cupping. October 2017. 

Rushall, Kathleen. "The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping". Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/09/20/many-benefits-chinese-cupping. 04 September 2017. 

Waite, Laura. "What Is Cupping Therapy?". Active.com. https://www.active.com/health/articles/what-is-cupping-therapy. October 2017. 

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