One of the greatest Olympian and swimming champions of all time is Michael Phelps. When he won his 19th gold medal in the Rio Olympics, many people who watched the great man in action wondered why his upper body was covered in mysterious red spots. Many of us Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioners immediately knew that he had used‘Cupping’ which is an alternative medicine treatment. 

In this era of drug-testing, an increasingly large number of both professional and amateur sports persons have started using alternative medicine treatments, such as cupping to treat injuries and keep themselves in top condition. So, let us take a look at why that is.


There are many forms of traditional Chinese medicine and many have the same underlying theory: they stimulate specific points across the body to alter the flow of the so called qi/chi. Cupping involves a glass or bamboo or earthenware cup placed on the skin to create suction. The cups are warmed using a flame, which is then placed inside the cup to remove all the oxygen and create a vacuum. As the flame is removed, the cup is turned upside down and placed over a specific area of the body.The heat creates a vacuum which sucks up the underlying tissue, supposedly mobilising the blood to the affected area of the body. Cupping should only be carried out by skilled and experienced Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioners.

Scientific Evidence

Is there any scientific evidence that supports cupping?

There are some Complementary and Alternative Medicine research studies that show that cupping causes local hemo dynamic changes. It is occasionally used for osteo-arthritis pain treatment.

In osteoarthritis pathophysiology,there is decreased blood supply and failure to repair proteogly can and collagen. Cupping which causes a vacuum of healthy and ailing tissue may improve blood circulation and repair the proteogly can and collagen framework.

An important alternative medicine treatment study for knee osteoarthritispublished in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research in 2013 investigated the management of knee osteoarthritis using cupping therapy. Cupping was performed on the 0-6th day; 9-11th day and the 14th day. The results of this study showed significant improvements in the overall management of knee osteoarthritis; relieving pain, oedema and stiffness. This Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatment compared favourably with conventional arthritis pain treatment using acetaminophen 650 mg three times day.

Sports Medicine

Many elite sportspeople and teams are turning in their droves to alternative medicine treatment. Phelps’s fellow swimmer Natalie Coughlin has posted pictures on Instagram of her receiving cupping therapy, while the US gymnast Alex Naddour has been competing at the Games with a prominent cupping bruise on his shoulder.

If you are also looking for effective arthritis pain treatment, then try cupping from a skilled Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioner or visit the Apple A Day Rx for evidenced-based complementary medicines that can enhance sporting performance and provide effective relief for osteoarthritis.