It’s an ancient Chinese healing practice that is being embraced by many athletes at the Rio Olympics.
The most notable, Michael Phelps, has showcased his circular marks during the games and has left many to wonder what cupping is and if they should give it a try.
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“I was definitely surprised to see that but I have treated a lot of athletes with myofascial cupping,” said Carl Berry, registered massage therapist with New Leaf Kinetic Arts in downtown Saskatoon.
For years, Berry has used this technique on patients to increase blood flow, treat injuries and loosen up muscles and joints.
“It’s a form of myofascial release so fascia is the connective tissue under the skin which sits on the surface of the muscle and it will get restricted which obviously will stop range of motion or restrict range of motion,” Berry said.
“We can release that by negative pressure inside a cup.”
Despite the marks that can be left on a person’s body from the practice, Berry says it’s pretty pain-free.
“If you move the cup around on a tight fascia it will hurt, if the cup is static and we just place it there it’s fairly painless.”
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So how does it feel from a patient’s perspective?
“When you were kids you did the snake bite to each other on everyone’s forearms, something a little bit like that but no pain at all.”
According to Berry, the treatment can be done on anyone of any age but he would be cautious with senior citizens.
Still not sure about the science behind cupping or craze brought on my Phelps red-hot spots? Those in the business say try it for yourself before ruling it out.
“Our clinic tries to use evidence based techniques so we try to look at the evidence for the practice that we’re doing and if it has enough evidence it’s worth doing, if not we don’t want to waste a patient’s time,” Berry said.