Many swimmers at this year’s Olympics, like Kyle Chalmers of Australia, are covered in strange, dark splotches, prompting many to wonder what is going on.
Had they all been paintballing, smoking enormous cigars, or giving each other perfectly round hickeys?
The underlying reason for them isn’t as thrilling as some of those events, but it is something that is growing more widespread in the sport: cupping.
Cupping is an ancient therapy that has been practised mostly in the Middle East and Asia, particularly China.
According to Healthline, it entails placing cups on the skin to create suction, which explains why the athletes’ skin is left with dark red marks.
Warm round glass suction cups are applied to painful areas of the body.
The glass cup is placed in such a way that it creates a partial vacuum, which is thought to stimulate muscles and blood flow while also reducing pain.
Proponents think that the technique aids healing by increasing blood flow.
Suction is also said to aid the passage of “qi” in the body, according to proponents. Qi is a Chinese term that translates to “life energy.”
Ge Hong, a famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist, is said to have been the first to use cupping. He lived from the year 281 to the year 341.
In actuality, there is little to no scientific evidence that cupping helps athletes.
Only a few studies on cupping have been done, according to Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York and a former sideline physician for the New York Jets.
A study of 135 studies indicated that cupping could help with shingles, facial paralysis, acne, and age-related wear and tear of the neck’s spinal discs.
,The authors of the review, however, pointed out that the trials were not well-designed, therefore the findings were not particularly useful.
According to Dr. Glatter, this does not imply that cupping is ineffective.
Cupping could act as a placebo, giving elite athletes a psychological boost, according to him. Cupping, in other words, works because people believe it does.
Source: Getty Images
- Kyle Chalmers: Getty Images