If you watched the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, there’s a good chance that you watched Michael Phelps help Team USA rack up medal after medal in the swimming pool. If you watched him race, you may also have noticed that he seemed to have numerous dark red circles on his shoulders and back. Medical professionals were quick to point out that Phelps likely underwent “cupping” therapy ahead of his races.
Cupping therapy is a process that uses suction cups on certain areas of the body. When the suction cup creates a vacuum over the area, it causes the skin to rise and blood vessels to expand. This improves blood flow to the area and also helps foster better nutrient exchange in the area, while also keeping soft tissues more mobile in relation to one another. Not only can this help to improve scar tissue mobility in the area, but it can also reduce a person’s risk of muscle spasms in the area.
What Does Cupping Treat?
Because it is such a low cost, high benefit option, it is a treatment option that we offer at our clinic for patients dealing with a variety of issues. It is often used to help improve or resolve:
- Muscle spasms
- Scar adhesions
- Muscle movement imbalances
- Chronic or isolated pain
- Trigger point pain
- Lymphatic flow issues
It’s far from a perfect solution, as it shouldn’t be used on issues like burns, cuts, infections or areas with localized inflammation, as vacuum pressure in these instances can do more harm than good. But for mild or moderate soft tissue problems or for areas that could be treated with improved blood flow, cupping can be just what the doctor ordered.
A final interesting note about cupping is that it also seems to offer psychological benefits. As medical experts surmised with Phelps, the red blotches on his skin served him a constant reminder that his team had worked to ensure every joint, ligament and tendon in his body was working optimally. Moreover, his competitors also saw the evidence of cupping and figured they already faced the tough task of beating arguably the most accomplished Olympian in the world, and now they had to do so without the benefits of cupping that Phelps had received. Medical research has shown that the placebo effect is real, and even if cupping isn’t this perfect solution to pain, there exists significant psychological benefits to seeing evidence of this treatment and believing that it’s working for you. Cupping can be both physically and psychologically beneficial for the right patient.
To learn more about the benefits of cupping or how we administer the procedure at our clinic for the right client, reach out to OrthoRehab Specialists today.