by Olivier Pere, B.Econ, RMT
During the 2016 Olympics in Rio, numerous American athletes have been noticed with some circular dark red marks on their bodies, one of them being Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history (Biography.com Editors, 2020). It has since then raised curiosity among the fans.
When you see those large marks on someone’s skin for the first time, you would probably think they are bruises from an injury or maybe from a bar fight. They are actually the result of a recovery method called “cupping therapy” used to increase blood circulation, relieve muscular tension, and loosen up fascia (Jadhav, 2018).
Cupping might be trending nowadays because of its wide use among athletes but it is one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine that was used back in 1550 B.C. by ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and some middle eastern cultures (WebMd, 2019). The Greek physician Hippocrates, who is considered as the father of medicine, has compiled numerous documentations about the application of cupping for treating internal diseases and structural problems (Aboushanab & AlSanad, 2018). It involves placing animal horns, bamboo, or silicon/glass cups on the skin, to create suctions which allows the blood vessels to expand, increasing local blood circulation and promoting the healing process. It is supposed to help with pain, arthritis, improving the immune system condition, and much more. In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is done to free the flow of vital energy circulating through our body and the world around us (Jadhav, 2018).
Many clients have experienced significant improvement after their first cupping session.
Like I said above, cupping is a very ancient technique and there is very little scientific research to back up its effectiveness. Some studies, like the one conducted by physiologist and acupuncturist Helene Langevin, demonstrate a reduction of the inflammatory marker cytokines, promoting then muscle relaxation (Jadhav, 2018). With so little shreds of evidence on cupping you are probably wondering if it is safe and if it does work. In terms of safety, I would say yes, it is and most experts agree on that. Cupping is classified as alternative medicine, meaning that there are more benefits than side effects. In terms of effectiveness, I would say it is subjective. I have encountered some patients who have experienced minimal to no change after a session and some who have experienced a significant improvement in their overall health right after their first session.
The human body is really complex and in terms of health, there is no size fits all. If you are only into scientifically proven based therapy, cupping might sound to you like superstition and would probably not be a good choice. It is very unlikely that a cupping session leads to serious health issues. But if you would like to try something different and do not mind experiencing a little bit of pain and having some red dots on your skin, then it might be a good alternative (Robert H. Shmerling, 2016). I believe that something that has been used for thousands of years by so many cultures is worth it. Science has its limit and because the effectiveness of cupping hasn’t been proved today doesn’t mean it will not tomorrow.
This post was written by Darren Gurr