Cupping @ Rio Olympics

Phelps - Cupping

If you’re watching the Rio Olympics, you’ve probably seen the dark red circular marks on athletes such as Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and others Team USA athletes.

Known in the sports medicine world as Myofascial Decompression (MFD), Cupping Therapy is a technique where a vacuum is created in a plastic cup to decompress the layers of the epidermis and subcutaneous superficial fascia. In effect, the cups lift the skin from the soft tissues underneath allowing fluid to move freely. This nourishes the soft tissues and decreases the buildup of lactic acid and soft tissue adhesions.

While research has yet to conclusively support the ancient practice of cupping, I as well as other massage therapists, athletic trainers, and physical therapists believe that it has the ability to decrease muscle pain, increase range of motion and improve lymph and blood flow.


The cups are typically left in place for 5-15 minutes depending on the client’s reaction and sensitivity. The longer a cup is left on the skin and the higher tensile stress inside of the cup, the more of a circular mark is created due to capillary dilation. Creams can be used to allow the cup to move once placed on the skin. This movement of the cups is known as Dynamic Cupping. This style of cupping has many of the same benefits as Static Cupping, however it is believed that with the movement comes an increase in clearing of lymph and lactic acid. Typically the discoloration of the skin from cupping will last about a week.

Interested in giving it a try? I’ve been practicing it for years and you certainly don’t have to be an Olympian to receive the benefits of this ancient myofascial technique. Ask for it at your next massage at Sport Performance Therapy!

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