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Myofascial Cupping Therapy for Pain, Recovery and Performance: Evidence & Proposed Mechanisms

September 9, 2016

As reported by USA Today4 and the New York Times,5 top athletes such as Michael Phelps and gymnast Alex Naddour were utilizing cupping therapy for recovery, pain relief, and to boost performance. According to Ted Kaptchuk,6 a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, while cupping is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, it is not new to the U.S., as cupping was commonly practiced by American physicians in the 18th and 19th centuries. Moreover, it is perhaps notable that Keenan Robinson, a strength and conditioning coach, introduced Michael Phelps to cupping after seeing Chinese physical therapists using it at the Pan Pacific Championships to facilitate recovery.7 That is, it would seem that, in the main, Western-based coaches and health care practitioners, including physical therapists, have made the Asian tradition of cupping therapy popular among elite athletes. Therefore, a better understanding of the history, proposed physiologic mechanisms, indications, contraindications and support from the literature of cupping is appropriate.



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