During the 2016 Rio Olympics, swimmer Michael Phelps had a whole lot people talking, and not just about his freestyle. The record-breaking champ walked in front of a televised audience of billions, sporting odd-looking purple circles across his back. People were confused, but Phelps was simply practicing ‘cupping’, an ancient form of alternative medicine.
A flammable substance is put inside of a cup made of glass, bamboo, or silicone. When the flame goes out, the cups are placed open side down on your skin. The cooling air, trapped within the cup, created a suction on the skin.
While not always recognized by Western doctors, fans of cupping therapy swear by it, saying that it helps to decrease pain and inflammation, and increases blood flow.