Michael Phelps of the US is seen with a red cupping mark on his shoulder as he competes in the Men’s 4 x 100m Freestyle Relay Final at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil August 7, 2016. . REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler/File Photo
What are those marks on Michael Phelps? By now the public is hearing the term ”cupping.” Since I was interviewed last year by Agence France Press to do a demonstration of this procedure for their global media outreach, I will explain cupping again. Seems the sighting of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston with cupping marks on their backs had put this ancient practice in the news…You can view it at this link: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/videonetwork/2571529145001/Remedy-of-the-Stars-Cupping-Leaves-Its-Mark-on-Hollywood.
“Cupping,” is the term for an ancient Chinese technique to eliminate the stagnant blood that typically occurs around the neck and shoulders. A small glass jar with a vacuum inside creates a suction that pulls this stuck blood to the surface capillaries. From there this ‘old’ blood can easily return through the capillary system to the heart to be re-oxygenated to restore more active blood circulation. (Here Jennifer’s marks have faded from red to white.) Other partakers are Victoria Beckham and Jessica Simpson.
I did two versions in French and English, shown worldwide. A French friend caught it on TV in Brazil. In 1975, when actress Lee Grant was up to win an Oscar for “Shampoo,” she declined this treatment before the gala so as NOT to have marks. We did it the day AFTER… It took 40 years to become fashionable!
What did not get included in the segment was my contrasting of cupping with another similar technique called Gua Sah, a friction rub that achieves the same results with some added benefits. It may look dramatic but it is not painful and most of the time actually feels great even while it is being applied! And especially afterwards. As in cupping, these are not bruises–only the presence of stagnant blood come to the surface. The marks recede in a day or three, depending on one’s circulation.
In my estimation, it is more comfortable and controllable, less labor intensive and more thorough. In the news clip another acupuncturist’s cupping shows the unnecessary, potentially uncomfortable side effects. Temporary raised red welts resulted from the strong degree of suction that can hurt when pulled off. This is not necessary to achieve results.
But both techniques perform a simple yet critical action of stimulating of blood, lymph and chi circulation around the neck and shoulders, and sometimes elsewhere on the body. These trapezoid muscles work overtime to hold up the 12 pound “bowling ball” that we carry around all day. And when it is hanging over a computer or a steering wheel, the head is more the equivalent of 20 lbs…Cupping and Gua Sah to the rescue!