Contributed by Sandy Sandvik

Did you see the dark circles on Michael Phelps' shoulders when he was swimming in the 2016 Olympics?

That was cupping.

Although it is not new, it seems to be popular since many Olympic athletes were using this method to increase blood flow to their muscles. Cupping therapy is an ancient form of healing in which a trained therapist puts special cups on the skin for a few minutes to create suction. That is what caused the marks left on Michael's shoulders.  

Cupping originated in China centuries ago and has been practiced extensively since 1950. Through thousands of years of clinical experience, the applications of cupping have become increasingly varied. Chinese medicine cupping is used to treat arthritis, asthma, colds, cough, indigestion, skin conditions, snake bites and many sorts of problems where there is stagnation or a lack of blood flow in the body.  

Cupping moves energy and blood, and opens the pores of the skin to remove toxins.  

The British Cupping Society claims success in treating:
•    Blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia
•    Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
•    Fertility and gynecological disorders
•    Skin problems such as eczema and acne
•    High blood pressure
•    Migraines
•    Anxiety and depression
•    Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
•    Varicose veins  

Side Effects: Cupping is fairly safe, as long as you go to a trained health professional. 

You could have these side effects in the area where the cups touch the skin: 
•    Mild discomfort
•    Bruises
•    Burns (if glass cups are used)  

The two most common methods of cupping in the U.S are: 

Fixed Cupping: The cups are placed on a selected area of your body and then left in place without being moved, for a short time.  

Moving Cupping: The practitioner applies oil to the skin (most commonly the back), then puts the cups over the oil and slides them around that region of the body. The cups slide easily because of the oil. This movement is very stimulating to the skin.