Since the start of the Olympic Games in Rio, there have been a lot of athletes showing off with purple marks on their skin like hickies. But this therapy is known as cupping therapy, a form of alternative medicine which has been used in China.

Cupping therapy is something that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. Some of the athletes in the Rio Olympics have used these forms of therapy to help with their performance to give them an enhanced edge over their other competitors. It seems to work, but here’s the breakdown of what cupping therapy actually is.

The notion of cupping means taking a plastic or glass cup and lighting the inside of the cup with a flame. Air is also used to compress the air inside the cup, making it a vacuum, meaning there is no air inside the cup. The cup is attached to your skin, which can be anywhere from legs to your shoulders and upper back, and its placed on your legs or other areas of your body for no less than one minute. When this happens, the capillaries under your skin began to pool near the surface, which can cause those purple marks. At this point it means that your cupping therapy is done and the cups are removed. The marks last for days and are gone within a week or two.

But how does this form of therapy work? Supposedly it is allowing your muscles to warm up and limber themselves. But therapists can do other forms of therapy while using the cups on your body. This means that they can move the cups up and down the leg or back to help with muscle tension. Basically, the Rio competitors are so stressed out getting gold. But what does happen is that the range of motion or the muscle tension is alleviated a little bit and the player can do a slightly better improvement on their performance overall, just not as big as some people are being led to believe.

Yet as much as cupping is a great form of therapy for some people who say it works for them, this therapy has a dark side. In many places like China and the Middle East, this form of therapy is an old and ancient bloodletting technique. The therapist would cut the skin before applying the vacuumed cup onto the skin to draw out the blood. So you can see why some people are iffy on the idea. But there’s no need to worry in the United States this form of cupping is completely without skin cutting, meaning it is very safe and also very harmless.

If you are interested in researching out the other forms of alternative therapy we offer at our clinics that do not include cupping, check out the website for more information.