The perfectly round bruises seen on the bodies of Natalie Coughlin, Michael Phelps and other Olympians have gone viral. What are these mysterious circles?
Most Chinese people watching the men's 4x100 freestyle relay final on Sunday would have recognized the marks on Phelps' body immediately and other American swimmer.
They are from an ancient Chinese therapy called “cupping”. The technique relies on suction cups that pull the skin back and loosen muscles and tendons, unlike a massage where they would be pressed. Cupping seems to have been adopted by Phelps and other U.S. athletes, including gymnasts, to relieve tension and improve circulation to muscles.
With Phelps and co. making headlines, cupping practitioners can surely expect an increase in business. According to Erika Weber, a licensed acupuncturist in New York, athletes can benefit from cupping because it releases blood lying stagnant in the muscle layer. Such stagnation can cause motion issues and inflammation. Bringing the blood to the surface of the skin allows it to circulate and help muscles move more freely.
It seems ancient Chinese techniques are meeting the demands of modern Olympians.