Ancient Healing Technique Hits Olympic Stage


If you watched any of the swimming events at the 2016 Olympic Games, you may have seen red circles on some of the athletes upper body.  USA Swimmer Michael Phelps is a good example.  So what is it?  Well you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Why athletes are turning to a practice that isn’t scientifically supported.  

“So if it’s already getting a little red, I don’t need to leave it on for a long time, because it’s going to work for hours after I’ve taken the cups off,” demonstrated Liz Geran, professional acupuncturist.  It’s become a common healing practice for many athletes competing in the Summer Games.  “Any kind of pain, or stagnation, think of all the people who complain about their shoulders, their neck, their upper back,” continued Geran.  She owns and operates Jade Mountain Wellness in Burlington.  Her group of practitioners specialize in acupuncture, herbal remedies, and cupping.

Cupping is an ancient healing technique in which a flame is stuck into a small glass globe, the flame eats away the oxygen within the bulb.  It’s then attached to a person’s skin.  With a lack of oxygen within, the globe creates suction, increasing blood flow, helping to increase healing.  Geran’s not surprised it’s become a popular technique.  “They’re doing a repetitive motion over and over and over.  It’s going to be very hard on the ligaments, the tendons and the muscles,” she said.  “When you use muscles to the extremes that these people are, being trained, the muscles get tired and they have to be treated appropriately to perform at higher and higher levels,” said Physical Therapist Edie Bernhardt.

Bernhardt is a founding owner of PT360.  They focus on rehab therapy and sports medicine.  She’s been through a few cupping sessions herself.  She says the practice targets soft-tissue problems.  But in an age of modern medicine, why are athletes using a thousand year old technique?  “Specifically for athletes, I think what they’re doing is looking for more of the Eastern medicine stuff because it works, and it’s always worked, so they’re realizing lets try this,” she said.  “There’s no pharmaceuticals.  It tones and strengthens the body and relaxes the body, so it’s going to keep you in the best shape you can be in without taking pharmaceuticals which have lots of side effects,” added Geran.

For athletes, it’s about getting healthy, getting onto the next event, and competing for gold.

Historic records show cupping has been used world-wide for thousands of years.  Besides sore muscles and aches and pain, it’s used to treat asthma, common colds, even skin conditions.

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