Phelps puts spot­light on cup­ping

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By AI HEPING in New York ai­hep­ing@chi­nadai­

Olympic gold medal­ist Michael Phelps led Amer­i­can swim­mers to a gold medal in the 4x100-me­ter re­lay, but what grabbed me­dia at­ten­tion and led to sto­ries and pho­tos around the globe were the pur­ple and red cir­cles on his back.

They were caused by the an­cient Chi­nese heal­ing treat­ment “cup­ping”.

Brent Bauer, di­rec­tor of the Mayo Clinic Com­ple­men­tary and In­te­gra­tive Medicine Pro­gram, said on Tues­day that he had re­ceived dozens of me­dia re­quests since the prime-time show­ing on Sun­day night of Phelps’ cup­ping marks.

Yun Li, a li­censed acupunc­tur­ist in New York, said that her clinic Asia Tui-Na NY had re­ceived many calls about cup­ping from po­ten­tial clients. “We even had pa­tients come in just for cup­ping. I treat via acupunc­ture mostly, but there are clients who said, ‘ Oh I want to just try cup­ping.’”

Shaobai Wang, a Chi­nese herbal spe­cial­ist and an acupunc­tur­ist who owns two clin­ics in New York, said that many clients asked him about cup­ping af­ter Phelps’ ex­po­sure, pri­mar­ily to get in­for­ma­tion on how cup­ping works.

“In terms of sports in­juries — es­pe­cially mus­cu­lar ones — the best choice is cup­ping. It is the best choice be­cause it is sim­ple, ef­fec­tive and easy to do with­out any side ef­fects if uti­lized cor­rectly. That is why in this Olympic Games there are so many ath­letes with cup­ping marks,” he said.

Feng Ping, a tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine (TCM) doc­tor who has been prac­tic­ing in New York for 20 years, said she had clients who talked to her on Tues­day about Phelps’ cup­ping treat­ment. “Fif­teen years ago, clients didn’t be­lieve [in cup­ping] and would say ‘next time’ when [I rec­om­mended] cup­ping and acupunc­ture. Now peo­ple would like to try it. Now peo­ple know about it.”

Julie Ji, a Chi­nese med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner and a mem­ber of the Bri­tish Acupunc­ture Coun­cil, said that the me­dia at­ten­tion on Phelps’ cup­ping marks was sim­i­lar to peo­ple’s re­ac­tions when Amer­i­can ac­tress Gwyneth Pal­trow showed up at a movie pre­miere in 2004 with the same marks on her back.

Be­sides Pal­trow, celebri­ties Jen­nifer Anis­ton, Jes­sica Simp­son and oth­ers have been spot­ted with the marks in pre­vi­ous years.

Chi­nese Olympic ath­letes have also shown the same marks, she said, adding, “Per­haps Michael Phelps is learn­ing a trick or two from the Chi­nese swim­mers in 2008.”

Cup­ping, a form of acupunc­ture, is done by light­ing flammable liq­uid in a glass cup. Once the flame goes out, the drop in tem­per­a­ture cre­ates suc­tion which sticks the cups to the body. The suc­tion pulls the skin away from the body and pro­motes blood flow to the area, which, in turn, re­duces mus­cle ten­sion and in­flam­ma­tion, and pro­motes heal­ing.

But the ther­apy can also cause small blood ves­sels to burst, leav­ing the cir­cu­lar bruises seen on Phelps and other ath­letes, which typ­i­cally last for three days but can last for weeks.

US gym­nast Alex Nad­dour told USA To­day that cup­ping was “bet­ter than any money I’ve spent on any­thing else”.

“That’s been the se­cret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy,” Nad­dour said, adding that it had saved him from “a lot of pain”.

Dana Vollmer, a two-time medal­ist at the Rio Games, told The Sport­ing News that “it helps with blood flow, it helps pull fluid or swelling out of dif­fer­ent ar­eas when you are able to put this cup on and move it. It works great for a lot of us. A lot of us use it.”

Dr Robert Glat­ter, an emer­gency room physi­cian at New York’s Lenox Hill Hos­pi­tal, who is in Rio for the Olympics, told CBS News, “There’s no sci­en­tific ev­i­dence. There are mul­ti­ple tri­als out there but no qual­ity ev­i­dence.”

Amy He and Wang Linyan con­trib­uted to this story.


US Olympic swim­mer Michael Phelps sported deep-pur­ple cir­cles on his shoul­der in the 200-me­ter but­ter­fly semi­fi­nal in Rio de Janeiro on Mon­day.

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