What the heck are those red circles on your shoulders?
Michael Phelps appears to be the most prominent athlete to embrace the ancient Chinese Medicine practice of cupping to relieve pain, increase circulation, speed healing and, therefore, improve performance.
Chinese cupping is a deep tissue therapy that follows a basic principle of Eastern medicine – the body’s energy, or chi, needs to flow freely for good health. Cupping removes heat, often caused by inflammation, from the muscles; it helps your energy get “unstuck”.
Lifting the skin off an injured or inflamed muscle through the use of suction cups removes pressure and increases blood flow at the skin’s surface. This also pulls lactic acid buildup and other toxins out of the muscle. This suction creates the circular “bruising.” Kind of like a hickey?
Backs and shoulders are the most likely place to see cupping marks, which makes sense. “We carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. So whether it’s pain or discomfort from physical exertion, sitting at a computer desk or emotional stress that manifests in the neck and shoulder muscles, cupping can help reach the deep tissue to lift pressure and revive energy,” said Beth Jezyk, LMT, who practices cupping at Essex Wellness Center in Essex, Connecticut.
Cupping is never used on bones and never for joint pain. It’s not for people who bleed easily or for individuals on blood-thinning medication. Women who are pregnant should be cautious because certain acupressure points should be avoided during pregnancy. For most people looking for a natural way to ease the tension that builds at the base of the neck and reaches down the back, cupping is a natural way to get relief.