Ever since Michael Phelps emerged from the Olympic swimming pools sporting assorted circular bruises, everybody has been talking about his alternative health methods of choice. People have been wondering how cupping works, and if it’s efficient in any other way than a placebo.
How Cupping Works
The procedure requires the use of a set of circular cups that are placed on the patient’s back. Then, either by pumping or heating, the air is sucked out of the cups. The vacuum that is thus created pulls the skin upward, breaking capillaries in the process. This is what produces the circular bruises that have been seen on the back of the swimmer.
It is believed that the procedure increases blood flow ad breaks down scar tissue. The athletes are fans of it because apparently it relieves soreness and it is approved by the Olympic Committee.
Where Does It Come From?
According to a number of ancient manuscripts, the technique was used by Egyptians as early as 1,550 BC. Cupping was also observed in ancient Middle Eastern and Chinese cultures. However, back in the day, the cups were more rudimentary, a flaming match being lit and used to remove the oxygen from the cup, thus creating the vacuum.
Starting with the 1950s, the technique started to be used in hospitals in China. In the last years, the procedure gained popularity among those who seek an alternative, drug-free lifestyle, bringing it back in the eye of the public.
What’s So Special About It?
Cupping can be considered a form of massage therapy. Regular massage promotes the use of positive pressure, where key points of the body are targeted. When the specific nodes are stimulated with the positive pressure, the body reacts by healing itself.
In cupping, the situation is a bit different in the sense that the pressure is negative because the muscles are not being pressed, but pulled.
There are also two different types of the procedure. There is dry cupping, the method of choice of Rio Olympians, but there’s also wet cupping. The latter involves cutting the blood vessels to allow the “medicinal bleeding” process to take place.
Does It Work?
Most doctors believe that cupping works similar to a placebo drug. As long as the patient believes that his or her back will hurt less, they will sense less pain.
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