Back in 2016, Michael Phelps shocked the world with red and black marks on his back. It was the result of ‘cupping’, an ancient Chinese therapy that leaves those marks. Since then a great number of celebs have been showing their alternative medicine wounds. But what exactly is this therapy and should you try it yourself?


It might be called trendy these days but it is certainly not a new trend. Many countries and cultures across the world have used cupping therapy for thousands of years. Reportedly, the first cup was made with animal horns to extract pus, and it was found in China. Egyptian medicine has also made use of the therapy. Cupping done today is very different from the way it was done back then. Nowadays, the cups are made of glass, silicon, plastic or even copper.


Cupping involves applying hot suction cups to the skin for certain period of time. This pulls the skin and creates a suction effect to draw blood to a specific area. This in turn increases blood flow to that certain area. Athletes use the practice for muscle recovery but the Average Joe can use it to treat acne, facial paralysis and shingles.

Cupping is not a new thing and these athletes are not the first ones to have used this method. These bruise marks have been seen on many celebrities suggesting they have tried it out.

Currently there is no evidence to suggest that cupping increases an athlete’s performance. However, many swear by it and continue to partake in the practice.

Is Cupping for You?

Here’s the thing – if you are prone to having issues like body pain and/or skin issues or digestive problems, cupping is certainly worth a shot. There is minimal risk, considering that it’s a low risk solution to these problems. Apparently it seems to cause clots but there is no data to prove it.


Having said that, there are certain limitations. Cupping should not be done to pregnant women, particularly on their abdomens and the upper parts of their legs. People with convulsions or those prone to high fever should not try cupping. Additionally, individuals suffering from ruptured tendons, fractured bones or injuries that involve bleeding should not indulge in cupping either.

Expert opinion is that one must avoid cupping if one has a fragile medical state, or a history of deep vein thrombosis in the legs. This is because the clots might dislodge, creating more problems. Moreover, all those bruises will take some time to go depending upon how dark the mark is.

The tendency of the marks to go away quickly depends on a healthy blood flow and the degree of stagnation. Someone with more stagnation will have darker marks that will obviously take more time to go away.

While it may not be your fast track to Olympic gold, different studies have shown that cupping is an effective remedy compared to most pharma-meds for pain reduction. A study that took place in Iran late in 2008 found that wet cupping along with controlled bleeding can effectively treat migraines. Still, your migraines have got to be pretty bad to start blood-letting.


Going for cupping or not is of course your own decision. But to be honest the trend is on the rise, so if you have some issues to deal with in terms of body pain, it is worth a try to reach out to a practitioner to ask if the treatment is ideal for you or not.

Last but not the least, for all those who believe in serious science and not in some ancient remedy or anecdotal evidence, then cupping might not be for you to maintain fitness. There are many other exercises that can cause the same amount of pain and that too without this bruising follow-up.


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