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The benefits of cupping include local pain relief and muscle relaxation. For athletes, cupping may help increase blood flow to a particular muscle region or help reduce pain. Numerous athletes from the Olympics in Rio 2016 used cupping. This was easily seen by circular markings on some of the U.S. swim team members.
At present the scientific evidence base for cupping is still evolving, however some evidence is available for its use in shoulder, neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome (Arslan et al 2016, Chi et al 2016, Michalsen et al, 2009).
Cupping is a form of alternative therapy designed to relieve pain by improving blood flow in the affected area. It's been linked with relieving muscular pains and providing more flexible muscles. This is because cupping acts as an inverted massage: rather than applying pressure, the skin is pulled away with similar effects.
This can also be seen in the smooth sheet of connective tissue (fascia) that covers the muscles. Connective tissue can become stiff, restricting muscle and joint movements. Cupping may relieve stiff fascia, making it more elastic and pliable, increasing mobility.
Cupping is a historic practice, having roots in Ancient Egyptian and traditional Chinese medicine where it has been used as a remedy for many disorders.