With the Olympia Games in full swing some of the world’ greatest athletes are giving their all. One such name that seems to predicate the games no matter the event is that of swimmer Michael Phelps.
Phelps took the swimming and Olympic world by storm in both the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games. Besides being now considered the most decorated Olympian of all time, he has become an athletic icon worldwide.
Within the past week spectators of the 2016 Rio games began questioning the reason for what appeared to be circular bruising on Phelps’ back and shoulders. Perhaps it was due to the weight of the multitude of Olympia medals. After all, if he wore them all he could be the athletic component to Mr.T.
It was actually discovered that the “bruising” was in fact a result of Cupping Therapy, an alternative medicine therapy that dates back to ancient Egypt and is popular in Eastern Medicine. It is used to treat muscle soreness, stiffness, and conditions related to arthritis among other ailments.
So what is this mystical therapeutic phenomenon? Actually it is not that mystical and was even referenced by Hippocrates, a Greek Physician and considered throughout history to be the Father of Western Medicine. (Ever heard of the Hippocratic Oath?)
Cupping is a process in which glass or plastic (clay, bamboo, or bronze in ancient times) bowls or bulb shaped cups are used as therapeutic tools. The vessel in question is placed on the affected area and a low pressure seal is created generally by the use of heat. The heated vessel is placed on the body and as the air cools a vacuum is formed causing the skin to contract out and up to the rim of the vessel. In more modern practices mechanical air vacuums are utilized. The process causes blood vessels to rupture but also causes an increased blood flow to the area. It has long been believed in many ancient and Eastern medicine practices that increased blood circulation can be an effective treatment to many ailments. Traditional Chinese practitioners believe that this is of great benefit to dispel stagnate blood in the area.
CONTROVERSEY Over Michael Phelps and Cupping
Since athletes like Phelps have brought this therapy front and center to the mainstream media (like the millions of Olympia game viewers) medical professionals have been quick to dismiss it as garbage science or referring to it as risk with no reward. Physician David Gorski of Wayne State University of Medicine proclaimed that the practice has “no place in modern medicine.” Doctor Gorski is not alone in his assertions as a multitude of medical professionals agree and assert the false benefits of the practice. Many medical professionals worry that the celebrity of individuals like Phelps will make this practice trendy and a fad among the population that follows what is “popular”.
On one hand you have historical medical pioneers like Hippocrates who proclaim that practices like this have merit. You have thousands of natural medicine practitioners who not only swear by such practices but utilize it daily.
On the next hand you have thousands of western medicine physicians, some with substantial reputations, who dismiss it to the extreme of being laughable.
Who is right here? Would a practice like cupping therapy last thousands of years in practice if it did not garner some benefit to its patients? Would respected physicians use their name and reputation and scientific basis to dismiss it?
The battle between Western and Eastern medicine is by far the longest running war our world has and will ever know. One is heavily based in science and proof or concept. The philosophy being if it works, there needs to be a proven reason why. The alternative looks for a mind and body balance. Instead of lab science believes in balanced and unbalanced as states of wellness and illness.
While there is certain crossover acceptance, certain approaches like cupping therapy hinge on the controversial, even in some alternative health circles. Is the fact that the Father of Medicine practiced methods highly dismissed by his professional descendants the ultimate irony?
As a firm believer in many natural therapies and natural treatments I often disagree with the assertion of medical professionals who dismiss such. I understand it though; western medical schools teach doctors to look for the science. It is not true unless there is extensive proof. That is a fine philosophy and I support that structure of their education and practice. At the same time, I believe that not all things in life are cut and dry and by the numbers. Do I support or believe in cupping therapy? Truthfully I can’t say, except to say it is not something that appeals to me, and not for any scientific reason either. Personally I find the imagery of the practice and bruising rather disgusting.
Is it right for athletes like Michael Phelps? Mister Phelps is no doubt one of the greatest athletes of our time. If he garners some benefit from the practice of cupping therapy and it does not hinder his performance or health than it is his personal business. He is in fact a celebrity and anything he does can be considered to become warranted by others. It is foolish though to assume that he will be the main perpetrator to some huge pseudoscience medical fad that will entice the masses. To the best of my knowledge he is not doing commercials promoting the practice.
In closing you as an individual should feel free to read up on this and any and all alternative medical therapies. However, do not partake in any simply because a public figure does so.
Alternative medicine practices have usually been practiced for thousands of years thus making them original treatment methods. So isn’t the newer western medicine the alternative?