What's the point of cupping? A GP explains the therapy sweeping the Olympic Games

It's the alternative-therapy craze that has been sweeping the Olympic Games, with vivid circular bruises appearing on the finely honed bodies of athletes from China to the USA.   But what is cupping, and does it actually do any good?

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It's the alternative-therapy craze that has been sweeping the Olympic Games, with vivid circular bruises appearing on the finely honed bodies of athletes from China to the USA. 

But what is cupping, and does it actually do any good?

Large red bruises, visible leftovers from the treatment, have been spotted on the likes of swimmers Michael Phelps and China's Wang Qun at the poolside in Rio.

Cupping – a Chinese therapy where heated glass cups are applied to the skin, creating suction and believed to improve the flow of energy – has also been growing in popularity among celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Gwyneth Paltrow. 

Dr Ayaaz Farhat, a general practitioner in London, explained the treatment to talkRADIO listeners.

"Think of cupping as a reverse massage," he told Jonny Gould and Ash. "When you have a traditional massage, you're pushing downwards on the muscles. With cupping, you're lifting up the skin.

"The intention is to lift up the muscles to liberate or decongest the underlying tissues and vessels to allow blood to rush back to targeted muscle-groups. 

"This is to make recovery quicker and more effective.

"Research for cupping is limited, it still comes under alternative therapy. We have to look quite hard to find research which would be gold standard within the UK."

Listen to the full interview above and let us know YOUR thoughts - is cupping a pointless placebo, or will the practice improve performance?