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Does ancient art of cupping benefit athletes?
Does ancient art of cupping benefit athletes

Health Tips brought to you by U.S. HealthWorks Medical Group. Our experienced medical experts provide information here that we hope will broaden your health care knowledge.

Today we talk to Dr. A.K. Misra, medical director for U.S. HealthWorks in South San Francisco, about the ancient art of cupping. Dr. Misra is double board certified in Sports Medicine and Internal Medicine.

I hear cupping is really great for your health; what is it exactly and can you expand on the topic?

Cupping is a practice that dates back to ancient times in places such as China. It is recommended for a myriad of ailments ranging from (and not limited to) asthma, arthritis, bronchitis, certain pain syndromes and gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. Essentially, cups are used to create a suction force over the area of concern, typically fleshy parts of the body.

Additional therapeutic benefits have been reported for conditions such as infertility, athlete’s foot, allergies, certain types of liver and kidney ailments and even headaches.

Who is doing this and why?

This is a common practice used by experts in the field, such as acupuncturists, physical therapists and massage therapists. It has recently caught considerable attention due to high-profile athletes embracing the practice, for example, American swimmer and multi-Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps (the circular marks on his back, visible at the Rio Olympics, have been all the chatter of late). I also know from my work in Major League Baseball that many ballplayers consider cupping essential.

While largely safe, there are potential risks, which is why cupping is done and directed by professionals with experience in the practice. For example, leaving the cups on for too long can cause significant tissue damage. Further, even when the treatments are administered correctly, they can be painful by their very nature. Skin discoloration is also sometimes particularly long lasting and highly undesirable. Finally, it is important to note that special caution is in order for those on blood thinners and those with clotting disorders.

In my medical center in South San Francisco, we have an exceptional acupuncturist that I work closely with, Mikel Davenport, who practices cupping and provided the following viewpoint:

“Cupping in Chinese medicine had traditionally been used to promote the movement of Qi and blood to reduce Qi stagnation and expel pathogenic factors. I have found cupping to be quite effective in treating both acute and chronic muscle spasms, strains and tightness of the shoulders and entire back. I especially love using a technique called running, or move cups, where herbal medicated ointment is applied to the skin so that the cups can be lifted and massaged across the affected muscles.”

How does it work exactly?

The thought behind cupping is that, by extension of the treatments, the physical process of putting negative pressure suction into the cup helps increase blood flow to the area, draw toxins out and better balance and realign Qi . The mechanical force of cupping can also de-stress the area and provide an analgesic affect.

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