AS well as his gold medal haul, Olympic swim star Michael Phelps has been making a splash in the media for sporting purple spots on his body while competing in Rio.
The athlete is a fan of the ancient Chinese practice of ‘cupping’, an alternative medicine technique designed to assist in muscle recovery.
The practice, which has been around for thousands of years, involves a therapist placing special cups on the skin for a few minutes to create suction.
In cupping therapy, the therapist soaks a cotton ball in alcohol and lights it on fire inside a glass cup.
The flame is removed and the cup is quickly placed on a patient’s skin, creating a vacuum that draws up the skin tissue.
When the skin seals the hot air in the vessel, the air inside begins to cool, causing the skin to contract.
A multi-functional technique, cupping has been used to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and also serves as a type of deep-tissue massage.
It is also believed that cupping can help remove toxins from the body and stimulate the flow of fresh blood, lymph and Qi (chee) to the body.
Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially is there is an injury or energetic blockage under the area.
The skin discolouration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but it rarely painful.
There are a number of methods of cupping but the two most common are ‘fixed’ and ‘moving’ cupping.
Fixed cupping: The cups are placed on a selected area of the body and left in place without being moved.
Moving cupping: The practitioner applies massage oil, places the cups over the areas to be treated and then slides them around the body.
Cupping has not only resurfaced as a trendy practice in the sporting world, but many celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston and Victoria Beckham are all known to be fans of cupping and have been sighted wearing the signature ‘spots’.