How 'Cupping' Helps Athletes

Olympic athletes train almost every day, several hours a day. As anyone who has run even as much as a 5K can imagine, that kind of training takes a physical toll. For some athletes, an ancient practice called "cupping" can relieve tired, aching muscles.

In this technique, which is a form of acupuncture practiced throughout the world, flammable liquid is placed in glass cups and lit on fire. Once the fire goes out, the cups are placed on the sore area of the body and suction created by the change in temperature causes the cups to stick to the skin. This action improves blood flow to the area and helps promote healing. Some members of the U.S. Olympic team are using a different technique in which a pump, rather than a flame, is used to create suction.

Cupping also is offered in some spas and has become popular with celebrities. The technique, which started in China more than 3,000 years ago, is not considered to be a proven medical treatment. Some athletes claim it is more effective than other recovery techniques such as massages, saunas, and ice baths.

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Sourced from: BBC, Why are so many Olympians covered in large red circles?