If you were watching primetime coverage of the Olympics on Sunday night, you doubtlessly noticed that Michael Phelps had about a half-dozen red circles on his upper body, like the world's biggest, most concentric chicken pox or a Gatorade bottle had given him a hickey. What's the deal?
It's called cupping therapy, a Chinese (or Egyptian, depending on who you believe) medicinal practice that dates back thousands of years. It works pretty much in that Gatorade hickey way. Back then, cups were made of glass and, inside them, a flammable material was set aflame. When it went out, the cup was placed on the subject's body creating a vacuum as it cooled. These days, there is a pump that mimics the process, leaving temporary bruises on the body. (You'd imagine Phelps had used that. It's hard to picture Bob Bowman lighting matches in the ready room and sticking silicone cups to his swimmer's pecs.)
For athletes, the idea is that the practice helps in recovery, something that's important for both post-practice purposes and in an eight-day stretch when you might swim a dozen races. So how does it work?
Full story at FoxSports.com.