Cupping: Not just for professional athletes

Cupping in Austin (KXAN Photo)
Cupping in Austin (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The unexpected surprise winner of the Rio Olympics so far isn’t Michael Phelps, but rather the therapy his performance is helping promote. “Cupping” is the cause of those purple circular marks on his right shoulder viewers may have noticed during his race. While the ancient therapy has a long history in the Middle East and Asia, it’s not so widely known here. Some Rio athletes say it helps promote circulation and healing.

But you don’t have to be an Olympian to try to reap the benefits of cupping.

“Anybody who has a little bit of soreness, tension, anybody who wants to even get rid of cellulite or promote circulation,” said Jessica Manson a Licensed Acupuncturist and Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. “It’s something that’s very safe and very effective for all age groups of people, from toddlers to geriatric patients.”

Manson treats clients at her South Austin Clinic Integrative Oriental Medicine. She says she first got interested in oriental medicine after suffering from an illness herself.

“I had a long history of illness myself and I had gone from many different practitioners to many other different practitioners, couldn’t find much of anything that helped me. Chinese medicine was the one thing that was able to solve a problem I was having for over a decade. Made me a believer out of me, I was a real skeptic until that day.”

Suction cups are placed on the skin to relieve sore and tight muscles, and to improve circulation. It creates a small, controlled amount of inflammation causing the body to send resources, like blood, to the area and help it heal faster. During the 4-7 days a person has those big dark circles, they’re typically getting the benefits.

Another method involves using fire to create the suction.

“In Chinese medicine we also use it as diagnostic tool. So we can cup an area of the body and where the most color arises in the body, it can tell us what meridians need attention.”

She says the therapy can yield even better results when used in combination with other treatments, like acupuncture and cold laser therapy. In addition to your back and neck, she says it can be used on other parts of the body like biceps and calves.

Manson says insurance doesn’t usually cover cupping, but will sometimes cover acupuncture.

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