Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympic medalist of all time, (23 medals and counting), just won gold with his U.S team in the men’s 4 x 100m freestyle relay swimming event.
And while the win is being celebrated, what’s being talked about more are the large red circles that were covering Phelps’ shoulders when he blazed ahead and led the team to its first place victory.
What are the circles about? They aren’t paintball injuries, the aftermath of a giant octopus attack, or the result of sleeping on his medals, as some fans have conjectured.
The circles are the result of cupping.
Why is Phelps using it? Cupping is a therapy treatment rooted in Chinese medicine that involves placing heated glass cups on the meridians of the body. The cups create a suction between the cup and the skin, pulling the skin away from the body and increasing blood flow.
The red marks show the bruising effect that a strong cupping session can leave on patients.
Cupping has no clinical trials to back up its efficacy, but some athletes, including Phelps, seem to be swearing by it.
U.S gymnast Alexander Naddour told U.S.A Today that he’s been using the treatment this past year, and loves it.
“That’s been the secret that I have had through this year that keeps me healthy,” Naddour told USA Today. “It’s been better than any money I’ve spent on anything else.”
Whether the cupping is working because of science, or because of a successful placebo effect doesn’t seem to matter. There’s no need to look at the details when a gold medal roles in: whatever it was, it worked!