Cupping in the Olympic Spotlight

Four Seasons Resort Orlando cupping treatment

All eyes were on top athletes this weekend as the Rio Olympics kicked off. If you tuned into popular sports like swimming to see Michael Phelps win his latest gold medal, you may have noticed the dark purple circles dotting his and other swimmers’ physiques. The polka dots are not a fashion statement but signs of cupping, a traditional healing technique that Phelps and other athletes swear by this year for relieving sore muscles, stress, and more. The technique is a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and dates back thousands of years and thanks to its rekindled fame, cupping is sure to be enticing for clients. Many spas already offer one of the variations of cupping (glass bulb traditional form or silicone cup for manipulative massage) as part of an East-meets-West treatment menu. We chatted with a few spa directors about the benefits of cupping and how they incorporate it in their spas.

  1. “Increased circulation aids in everything from blood flow, cellular turnover, and tissue recovery—which means improved healing and turnaround time (recovery) from their training or exertion. Cupping can alleviate muscular pain, and can also be very relaxing - both incredibly beneficial for competitive athletes. Also, cupping is believed to remove tissue stagnation and fluid and energetic blockages; which helps the athlete's body perform optimally. Lastly, at an elite level of competition, athletes are interested in anything that might give their performance a competitive edge.”—Derek Hofmann, director of spa, Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort  
  2. “We believe Olympic athletes are drawn to it because the speed and the depth of cupping allows for faster recovery time between events placing the athlete at optimal performance. The suction from the cups can penetrate deep into your muscle tissues enabling release of harmful toxins which is more intense than a massage. In alternative medicine, pain is believed to be caused by problems relating to our Qi flow. When you have more flow, you have more power which is suitable for athletes.”—Karen Aleksich, director of spa, The Mandarin Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
  3. Six Senses Spa Vietnamese Cupping“Cupping is essentially the inverse of massage, instead of using pressure to release trigger points within muscle tissue, the cup creates an upward suction, resulting in the breakdown of the contracted area or spasm, bringing blood flow and circulation back to the area.  When used effectively cupping can often be a more direct method to the release of muscle spasms. The effects of one cupping session can equate to two or three sessions of pressure point therapy.”—Carla Sage, corporate director of spa training, Six Senses
  4. “Cupping delivers immediate and noticeable results.  Professional athletes are pushing their bodies to the max yet need to be stay aware and conscious of limitations and challenges – cupping therapy promotes the elimination of toxins, reduces soreness and in turn improves your healing and recovery time allowing for maximum performance.”—Stephanie Wendell, spa director, Holistic Healing Center at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort (Farmington, PA)
  5. “Not only does it feel good, but it releases muscle tension and spasms that may occur after workout sessions and competitions. Cupping also improves your muscles recovery time. Which means you build stamina, strength and flexibility much quicker. Cupping is a natural, and non-invasive way to improve your performance, and get you much closer to winning that gold medal.”—Natalia Morrison, acupuncture physician, Carillon Miami Beach (FL)

Does your spa offer cupping or other traditional Eastern therapies?