Most people watching Olympic legend Michael Phelps compete in Rio wondered: What are those weird dots all over his body? Phelps, and many athletes, received a cupping massage as part of their preparation. But what could possibly be helpful about a treatment that leaves bruises on someone’s body for (potentially) weeks? I had to find out for myself.
I experienced my own cupping massage at the Metairie location of Earthsavers. My first clues came from the initial form I had to sign, which asked for some background information and outlined the procedure and potential side effects. I learned that cupping is an ancient form of Chinese medicine. “It’s a myofascial tissue (the tissue that surrounds and supports your muscles) massage that involves small cups being placed on the skin to create suction. This mobilizes blood flow, which promotes healing and provides relief from countless ailments.”
My massage therapist, Tiffany, was fantastic and let me ask a multitude of questions for each part of the process. First, she explained to me that there are two types of cups. Glass cups are what have been used since the massage’s inception. There are also plastic cups that attach to a device allowing for a stronger suction than glass. This gives the option for elevated suction, which allows for increased blood flow and stretch. Tiffany explained to me that she, along with many in the sports field, enjoys cupping more than a regular massage.
It also gives the opportunity to move the cups around the body, lifting and stretching the muscles as they move along the skin. This is where the pain comes in, for me at least. As Tiffany moved the cups across my back, she knew exactly which muscles were tighter than the others by how the cups stopped – and by which area made me a little more vocal throughout the process.
Once completed, I definitely felt more relaxed and lose in different areas of my back. I can see why athletes like Phelps add this practice into their regimen before a competition. It increases blood flow, loosens up muscles and lessens the pressure and tightness that’s put on the muscles during intense workouts.
Obviously I won’t have to use it to prepare for my upcoming gold medal competition, but it will definitely make an appearance in my relaxation training.