Tonight when I was watching Olympic swimming, I noticed cupping marks on the back and shoulders of the famous swimmer Michael Phelps. I was so excited to see that US athletes use alternative treatment since I know acupuncture and cupping have been widely used for Chinese athletes for a long time.

Cupping is an ancient acupuncture method and a form of Chinese Medicine therapy. Cupping dates back to 1000 BC. Cupping creates a local suction by using fire and vacuum suction on certain areas of the skin. Most of the time, these areas are located at the acupuncture points and the trigger point (also called AShi points) area. Cupping can mobilize blood and facilitate Qi flow in order to promote healing.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cupping can dispel stagnation such as stagnant Qi, blood, and lymph, thereby improving Qi, blood, and fluid flow. Cupping also helps to pull off toxins and dampness from the body in order to restore good Qi.

Cupping can be used to treat some respiratory diseases, including the common cold, pneumonia, bronchitis; back, neck, shoulder pain and other musculoskeletal conditions, such as deep scar tissues in the muscles and connective tissue, muscle knots, and swelling can be treated by cupping as well.

However, cupping is not advised for everyone without a professional evaluation. While cupping can pull the bad toxins out from your body, it may also pull your good Qi off your body. Furthermore, you may not be suitable for cupping if you are not strong enough or have weak body Qi. Additionally, cupping cannot be used over skin ulcers or wound areas. Some patients cannot be cupped on the abdominal area or some sacral regions. Some disc rupture patients and some who use blood thinner medicine and pregnant women have to avoid using cupping.

Therefore, please do not do cupping unless you have been cleared by a health professional. (I have seen patients’ conditions worsen because of improper cupping methods.)

Finally, just because you have seen cupping marks on well-known athletes, it does not mean it is the best course of treatment for you. My suggestion is for you to find the best treatment for your body by consulting your practitioner.

Wishing you a healthy life!
©Dr.Li Zhang

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