Turns out Michael Phelps and his pals at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre aren’t the only ones who use cupping therapy that leaves large purple dots on the body and has created curiosity among fans.
The therapy also is popular among members of the USA track and field team, according to Ralph Reiff, a sports performance expert who said he has worked with more than 100 members of the current U.S. Olympic team.
Reiff, executive director of the St. Vincent Sports Performance in Indianapolis, said the cupping advocates include LaShawn Merritt, who has recorded the top time in the world this year in the 400 meters.
“It’s very much common in our practice,’’ Reiff said. “We’ve found it to be an effective alternative therapy to add to our toolkit of resources.’’
Reiff said his staff learned about the technique while traveling in China and studying the work of their Chinese counterparts. And how does it work?
“Think of a traditional suction cup that you might put on a wet window,’’ Reiff said. “It stays there, and it creates suction underneath it. It’s the same principle as what cupping does. It creates a vacuum and lifts the skin up in that space and therefore creates a lift of all the soft tissue.
“Depending on how long you leave it on one particular place, you get an infusion of fluid in that area. That’s why you see the marks on some of the athletes. There’s an increase in blood flow to that area.
“Sometimes, it breaks up some capillaries on the skin's surface. So that’s why you see the discoloration.’’