Patient receives cupping therapy on her backRecall back to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. Do you remember seeing Michael Phelps’s back covered in what appeared to be big, circular bruises? No, he doesn’t have a skin disease, and no, he didn’t sustain injuries from some kind of round weapon. The marks are a result of a practice called cupping, a traditional Chinese medical treatment that is now used in the United States to relieve pain and other conditions.

During cupping treatment, glass cups are suctioned to the skin using heat to create a vacuum. This suction pulls fresh blood to the desired area and draws stagnant blood away. The new blood carries necessary oxygen and nutrients to the region of concern and stimulates healing. While this is happening, the body reacts by forming new blood vessels. In the future, these newly formed blood vessels are better able to transport nutrients and oxygen, which is why cupping can have a lasting effect on the body. Cups can be applied to almost all areas of the body, but are most utilized on the back, neck, and shoulders. Cupping is generally painless, but often, marks that indicate the transfer of blood are left on the skin. These marks, as you may have noticed on Michael Phelps’s back, are usually red/blue/purple and fade 2 to 5 days later.

Cupping is used by massage therapists, chiropractors, and other medical professionals to alleviate muscle soreness and tension. Other benefits of cupping include:

  • Improved circulation
  • Elimination of toxins and waste products
  • Strengthening of blood vessels and other organs
  • Stress relief
  • Allergy/flu/cold relief
  • Improved digestive system
  • Weight loss


Cupping may seem scary at first because of the temporary marks it leaves on the skin, but can be especially effective when combined with other chiropractic techniques. To discuss cupping and other chiropractic care that best fits your personal needs, schedule an appointment with the doctors at Fletcher Chiropractic today!