What Is Cupping & Why Is Michael Phelps Doing It?

By Sarah Carroll

We’ve got Olympics fever, which means we’re glued to our TV every night watching Team USA dominate.

Michael Phelps competed over the weekend and you probably noticed he was sporting some strange circular hickeys all over his back and shoulders.

It’s all because of an ancient Chinese recovery technique called cupping that several athletes are trying. The skin is suctioned tightly to loosen muscles and tendons, which aids in the healing process.

According to USA Today, cupping is achieved by heating “flammable liquid in a glass cup and suctioning that to the back once the flame goes out, with the decrease in temperature creating the suction.”

It looks painful, but athletes are willing to do whatever it takes to go for the gold.

Watch Phelps undergo cupping at the :45 second mark of this Under Armour video.

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