The AMA says this health trend does nothing for its patients

Michael Phelps' cupping marks had people questioning the practice during the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Michael Phelps' cupping marks had people questioning the practice during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Photo: Getty

It’s the health trend causing dark circular marks to appear on Michael Phelps, Gwenyth Paltrow, Sonny Bill Williams, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Aniston, but the Australian Medical Association (AMA) says it is providing them no benefit.

Cupping – the ancient Chinese medical therapy where heated glass suction cups are applied to skin for better energy flow – is one of the hottest trends among health-crazed celebrities and sportspeople.

Most recently we’ve seen cupping marks appear on rugby gun Williams, pop star Bieber as well as swimming supremo Phelps at the Rio Olympics.

“I’ve done it before meets, pretty much every meet I go to,” Phelps said in Rio. “So I asked for a little cupping yesterday because I was sore and the trainer hit me pretty hard and left a couple of bruises.”

“I have done it for a while but I haven’t had bad ones [bruises] like this for a while though.”

But is it really any good for you? It depends who you speak to. AMA vice president Dr Tony Bartone told The New Daily that cupping was essentially useless, except for causing skin “trauma”.

“There have been no rigorous well researched or well positioned trials into cupping that shows it has any therapeutic or medical benefit,” Dr Bartone said.

“We would say it has minimal if any place in a therapeutic or medical suite of interventions.

“There is no really good hard evidence to show it has any other effect other than causing localised areas of trauma to the skin.”

Dr Bartone also said cupping “can be dangerous” because patients are at risk of “burns” and “severe bruising”.

what is cupping

Cupping has been practiced in China for thousands of years. Photo: Getty

‘It’s not meant to bruise’: cupping expert

But Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association (AACMA) vice president Waveny Holland told The New Daily that cupping was beneficial, but only when practiced by a properly qualified Chinese medicine professional.

She said problems occurred when those not versed in Chinese medicine, like naturopaths and masseuses, used very strong and rigid suction cupping methods.

what is cupping

Jennifer Aniston shows off her cupping marks on the red carpet. Photo: Getty

“I use cupping without the big purple bruising marks, when I was taught, bruising was considered a disharmony in itself,” Ms Holland said.

“The benefit is movement, even for muscular skeletal things. Movement means the cup can warm and move stagnation in the muscles.”

Ms Holland said in Chinese medicine, disharmony in the body is caused by stagnant energy.

“The pictures that we saw of the bruises on Michael Phelps suggested to me that the cupping was done by a therapist not trained in Chinese medicine,” she said.

“The vacuum cups with the guns and spikes to suck out the air was not how it was done in ancient times, and it is not how I do it.”

Ms Holland said she burnt an alcohol swab in her cups to remove oxygen from it and create gentle suction and warmth.

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