If you’ve followed a few Olympic Games events including freestyle and artistic gymnastics, you may have noticed purple circles on the backs and shoulders of athletes Michael Phelps and Alex Naddour. These same marks have appeared regularly on the skin of some Hollywood actresses like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow for more than a decade. This is a practice called cupping therapy.
Practiced thousands of years ago, this technique is based on the use of suction cups placed on specific areas which, through a suction effect (which explains the marks), can release muscle tension, stimulate the body and heal any sort of pathology ranging from arthritis to blood flow problems. Suction cups can be used hot, using flames, or cold, with a mechanical air suction system. The installation is not painful and lasts a maximum of twenty minutes. Athletes who practice cupping therapy believe that it helps them recover better after exercise.
What do scientists think?
No study has proven its real benefits, the medical community does not advance on the effects of cupping therapy. Some specialists speak of placebo, the psychological mechanism that makes it possible to feel the benefits of a non-existent treatment, which would be reinforced by the marks on the body. If the technique intrigues you and you want to try it out, make sure it is practiced by professionals in physiotherapy or osteopathy. There is no risk other than the traces of suction, but cupping therapy can cause ulceration of the skin if done incorrectly several times.