It’s all over social media. “What are those big purple dots?” “Why do the athletes have large red dots all over them?” Pretty much every other article in my Facebook newsfeed had an article about cupping over the last two days. I just have to say, “Thank you Michael Phelps” (and various other Olympic athletes) for endorsing one of our favorite modalities! If you haven’t seen it, Olympic athletes have been all over the bodywork and cupping this year. Purple dots line the shoulders and backs of many swimmers and gymnasts. I am so happy to see these athletes embracing many of the bodywork modalities that we know and love.

Cupping actually has its roots in Chinese medicine. As a traditional therapy that uses glass cups, they are heated with a flame, to produce a vacuum effect and applied to areas of the body to increase the flow of Qi (chi) and move stagnant blood. This therapy is an essential practice in TCM used by acupuncturists. Massage and bodywork professionals have adapted this therapy over the years to use in their sessions, creating vacuum pump cups and the new popular Contemporary Cupping, which uses therapeutic grade silicone cups.  From a physiologic standpoint, its application creates a negative pressure to the connective tissues. By separating the layers of connective tissue, specifically fascia, you will experience an increase in blood supply to the local muscles and skin which nourish and stimulate the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Cupping also engages the parasympathetic nervous system which aids in deep relaxation. While benefits have not been heavily researched and even some have gone as far as saying it only produces a placebo effect, first hand experience from those receiving cupping is hard to ignore. It must hold some weight if our most decorated Olympian swears by it!

Emma Starpoli is our cupping guru at Evergreen Massage. Her cupping style is amazing and is an excellent addition to any massage especially when you need a little extra love to an area of your body. We know you’ll love it.

For more articles on Olympians and cupping, check out: