Although the Olympics is over, the buzz is still in the air – especially when it comes to the way athletes treat themselves. How do they live? What do Olympic athletes eat? How do Olympic athletes recover? Well, one trend that frequently gets noticed is the appearance of mysterious circular splodges found on an athlete’s skin created by cupping therapy. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps had them all over his back and legs in 2016. But, what is cupping therapy and does cupping therapy work?
The Origins of Cupping Therapy
Cupping, or Hijama, is a form of alternative therapy thought to originate from China, but it also existed in the Middle East, as well as ancient Greece. It aims to improve healing via blood flow and increasing circulation to the area in which the cup is placed. It is thought to also reduce muscle tension by promoting cell repair too. It’s evident to see why it might be appealing to Olympic athletes during training and throughout lengthier competitions.
Originally, Hijama cups were made from animal horns, then bamboo and ceramics, which were heated before the treatment. As they cooled down on the body, the skin was pulled into the cup as a vacuum was formed. Nowadays, glass spherical cups are often used, with an opening for the practitioner to regulate the pressure inside the cup manually.
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
Some celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, praise cupping therapy as a form of holistic medicine that is better than western methods of healing. As well as improving circulation and increasing muscle relaxation, Hijama is believed to balance out the yin and yang within the body. This balance between the extremes of good and bad are thought to be essential in making sure the body can fight off pathogens and reduce pain.
However, when you look at the scientific evidence another story is told. Some reports claim the evidence doesn’t show any conclusive results. As a result, it is difficult to provide the benefits of cupping therapy on the body with certainty. This is mostly down to a lack of high-quality research in this area of medicine and healing. Some evidence does exist to suggest that it inhibits pain, but the full effects are not yet realised. It’s for this reason, however, that athletes use cupping therapy as a way of recovering after training and competitions.
Side Effects of Hijama Therapy
So far there are relatively few side effects associated with cupping therapy, and those that do occur tend to be present immediately, or in the short time after, your treatment. These side effects can include nausea, sweating, or dizziness during the cupping process. Shortly afterwards, you may experience skin irritation where the hijama cups contact the skin, some soreness around any incision points, or further dizziness.
Although infection is always a risk of cupping therapy, it should be a very small risk if your practitioner follows proper precautions in preventing it both before, during, and after your therapy. However, other issues such as scarring and bruising may also occur. As a result, it’s a good idea to do your research before going for cupping therapy – make sure the practitioner has a good reputation for what they do and have the relevant qualifications and licenses to practice cupping therapy.
Things to Consider
In addition to the previous section, a good way to tell what kind of practitioner you are dealing with is to pay attention to their practice, their skillset, and your own condition’s needs. What is the facility like, and does the practitioner have professional accreditation?
As with many health and wellbeing practices, it is a good idea to discuss various methods for easing health issues with your doctor. They can give you advice on whether or not a medical treatment rather than a holistic one may suit you better. However, their knowledge on some holistic practices may be limited. As a general rule though, if you are a child, a senior, menstruating, or pregnant you shouldn’t undergo cupping therapy.
Furthermore, if you use a blood thinning medication, have sunburn, a wound, or skin ulcers then hijama therapy isn’t recommended. Also if you have experienced recent trauma, or an internal organ disorder, then you should also take caution. Talking to a medical professional will help you understand whether or not it is right for you.
So, does cupping therapy work?
There are several alleged benefits of cupping therapy for the body, such as increasing blood circulation and improving recovery after exercise. However, the research needs developing. It doesn’t, however, mean it doesn’t work – although, it definitely helps to make sure you are confident enough. Checking with a medical professional and searching around for a good local hijama practitioner will do you better than diving in with the first one you find without considering your needs. As with many health practices, the quality of the care you receive should be as good as possible. But at least now you know what cupping therapy is and how it helps athletes with recovery. Furthermore, you know how cupping therapy could help you!
Cupping therapy has been praised by some as a more holistic way of healing, avoiding the use of western medicine.
Cupping therapy can aid in recovery after a hard workout or sports event by increasing the blood flow in the affected muscles.
There are certain conditions or instances where cupping therapy should be avoided. Speak to your doctor if you are considering it to be sure whether it’s right for you.