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Posted on 03-16-2017

Courtesy of Dr. Michael Krasnov, DC of Durham NC Chiropractic Partners...

Many of you saw a lot of reddish splotches on Michael Phelps at the Olympics in Rio. Some of you may even know that they came from a technique called cupping. What is cupping and how does it work?

Cupping is not new. Most people know it as part of Chinese Medicine and it is often done by acupuncturists. But many cultures have used cupping for quite a while. There is even a very brief scene in The Godfather where the sickly infant Fredo is having cupping done by the women of the household. In recent years cupping was found to be an effective technique for treating soft tissue tightness and restrictions. Traditional Chinese medicine would use cupping as one of their techniques to affect the flow of "chi" or vital life force. However in more recent times cupping has been used by Chiropractors and other physical medicine practitioners to free up tissues that are "stuck" due to adhesion or scarring. Dr. Krasnov was one of the early chiropractors in this area to adopt cupping as one of his treatment options. He began using it after working on Olympic athletes at the US Olympic Training Center Sports Medicine Clinic in Colorado Springs which is where he was first introduced to the technique.

The cups are usually either glass or plastic. The more traditional glass cups usually achieve their vacuum by lighting a flame under the cup and extinguishing the flame which creates a vacuum. Most sports medicine practitioners use plastic cups to which a pump is temporarily attached. Many sports medicine practitioners add body movement while the cups are in place. What we believe is happening is that the suction of the cup, lifting up on the skin, creates a separation between the layers of skin, fascia and muscle. Adding movement then restores glide and slide to those layers. It can be temporarily uncomfortable but most people feel remarkably looser or move better after a cupping session. And yes it can leave a hickey, but that didn't seem to bother Michael Phelps.

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