Everyone watching the Olympics saw the large purple dots all over Michael Phelps and it started the buzz, what is cupping? The interesting thing is that cupping is nothing new and is actually one of the oldest treatment modalities and has been used for almost 3,000 years! Like many therapeutic modalities its primary function is to increase blood flow to the treated area, speeding up the healing process.
Cupping essentially is a bowl or cup that is placed on the surface of the skin and the air is removed, creating a vacuum that encourages the skin and blood vessels in the area to expand. The coloration on the skin is caused by some of the capillaries bursting and causing a mild bruising in the area. This is why Michael Phelps has the purple dots on his shoulders and back.
While you may be interested in the potential healing aspects of cupping, most physical therapy and chiropractic practices offer therapeutic modalities that don’t leave the visible bruising and treatments that offer more empirical evidence of efficacy than cupping. Cupping has not had many studies performed to verify its effectiveness in treating musculoskeletal ailments, and the studies that have been done have inconclusive findings.