Phelps Cupping???

Copyright Sports Illustrated, 2016

Copyright Sports Illustrated, 2016

If you have been watching any of the Olympics, you have undoubtedly seen the circular'bruising' on Michael Phelps (and other athletes).

While there are many well documented & anecdotal benefits to "cupping" by Chinese & Oriental Medicine Practitioners (OM), there is not a lot of science/data to support it.  In OM, the thought is that the 'cupping' can affect the flow of energy, blood, and/or Chi.  In the Manual Therapy world, we utilize 'cupping' to provide a level of decompression to the tissues in the hope that this will aid in the break-up and reduction of adhesions and/or scar tissue in the underlying fascia and/or muscles.

Dr. Ross has been utilizing 'cupping' with a suction device and 'cups' for 12 years in his clinical practice.  In combination with manual therapy, the results appear to be more beneficial than with manual therapy alone.

Here is Dr. Ross applying 'cupping' to BeckyJo (one of the owners of SODO CrossFit & CrossFit RE)

The cupping leaves the distinctive circular bruising on the skin.  In 12 years of cupping, Dr. Ross has never seen clotting, permanent damage, and/or any other ill effects from the use of suction/cupping.

Here is the typical bruising:

Dr. Ross explains it as helping to 'tease apart' the adhesions and/or scarring that results from a wide range of tissue trauma (acute injuries, overuse injuries, trauma, etc.).  Whereas, manual therapy aims to separate tissue layers, adhesions, and/or scar tissue, through the application of a specific force along the muscle and fasica layers, the action of cupping is to pull apart the layers.

In the following photo, the drawing above is demonstrating the cup pulling apart the layers of tissue, while the drawing below (where Dr. Ross is simulating the application of manual therapy with his thumb) is demonstrating the separating of tissue layers with manual therapy.

If you have any questions about cupping specific to manual therapy, feel free to contact us at