"What is Wrong with His Arm?!"

Did you know about the ancient therapeutic art of Cupping

before Michael Phelp’s revealed his new tattoo’s?


It was a warm August day in 2016 and I was in a restaurant watching Michael Phelps stun the world with his swimming prowess. The swimmers were lining up on their blocks and the commentators were having a field day rattlingoff statistics left and right. All eyes were on Phelps and the air in the room was charged. You could hear a pin drop…Then all of a sudden a woman yelled out, "What is wrong with his arm?!" 

Okay…maybe it wasn't that dramatic, but it did happen. The funny thing is, I hadn't thought twice about the reddish circles on Michael Phelps shoulder girdle, chest and back muscles. We had studied Cupping and learned the techniques in one of my classes at The Cortiva Institute, so those marks made sense to me. Clearly, not everyone was on the same page though. The commentators went on to explain the circles a bit, but then the race started, and Phelps won, so of course everyone in the restaurant celebrated.

Eventually the hoopla died down, but the lady brought up the marks again because she still had no idea what they were. Because I was, no doubt, the restaurant's authority on Cupping, I introduced myself and gave her a brief explanation. (Since you're reading the Mellowed Out blog, you get the more in depth version. 

Cupping is an ancient modality that dates back at least 2,000 years to civilizations in Egypt, China, and the Middle East. Used to address muscular/joint pain, trigger points, soft tissue congestion, and a host of other ailments, it works by placing a single or multiple small cups made of glass, plastic, bamboo, or silicone on the skin which use suction to create a vacuum. Depending on the facility, some practitioners may use fire or a simple pump to induce a vacuum effect. Whether the cups are left stationary on specific spots (anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes) or are manipulated around the body, the suction draws blood, fluids and toxins towards the surface of the skin, aiding in the body's own immune response to injury. 

Of course the next thing she wanted to know was how it felt. If it hurt. And, to be honest, there is no one true way to answer to that question. The pain is relative to your body and the issues being addressed. For me, the sensations have ranged from mildly uncomfortable to me yelping. I explained that any body work that addresses deep tissue can be painful, but it should never go beyond the threshold of one's tolerance. I made sure she understood that breathing, and communication with the professional administering the technique were key. Besides, the results were, for me, well worth the few uncomfortable moments it took to get to that point of relief. 

She thanked me for my time and I was almost back to my table when she asked one final question…"One more thing Staci, how long is he gonna walk around looking like he's been attacked with a paintball gun?" That one caught me off guard, and when I was through laughing I told her the bruising would last about a week or so. In addition, he might feel some soreness or mild discomfort in those areas for the next couple of days, but nothing major. I told her if she was interested in experiencing Cupping for herself she could always come visit us at Mellow Massage and Yoga.