Why the media shouldn’t sneer at the use of cupping



  • What are the sucker marks on these Olympics athletes back?
  • Why the media shouldn’t sneer at this radical idea
  • Try this at home today to relieve stress, anxiety and chronic pain

Have you been watching any of the Rio Olympics?

I’m not a massive sports watcher, but I get into the Olympics, mainly because it’s fun to watch my children’s bafflement at some of the sports.

Judo? “It’s women in pyjamas wrestling”.

Dressage? “The horses are DANCING!”

And as for the swimming…

Well, it looked to all of us like Olympic legend Michael Phelps had been attacked by a GIANT OCTOPUS.

There were sucker marks all over his back!

I know that athletes have to train hard, but wrestling a massive cephalopod seems above and beyond the call of duty.

“Perhaps this is why he’s a champion”, I said.

Then I saw the articles appear online…

Like this in the New York times online blog…

“What are the purple dots on Michael Phelps?”


And this in the Independent…


Suddenly – hysteria!

The journalists came out in force, explaining that “cupping” was the new trend for Olympic athletes, and that it came from ancient Chinese medicine, and that it was all BUNKEM – NONSENSE – SNAKE OIL!

It’s funny how angry people get about what other people do!

There’s nothing illegal about this. And those who resort to cupping claim that it helps them.

Many of the Chinese athletes are using this therapy, but also Phelps and the gymnast Alex Naddour who claims that it relieves soreness and pain… as well as non-Olympians like Victoria Beckham and Gwyneth Paltrow, who famously flouted the suction marks back in 2004.

Here’s our view at the People’s Doctor…

Human beings should be free to explore all avenues of pain relief, life-enhancement and good health – as long as it doesn’t harm other people.

Yes, medical science holds a LOT of the answers and there are amazing breakthroughs happening all the time. Scientists are not all evil slaves of pharmaceutical companies, and being closed-minded about drugs, surgeries and cell therapies is foolish.

We can’t stay in the past!

However, being closed-minded about alternative therapies is also foolish. Because if something has the potential to reduce pain, restore energy and make you feel happier…. then why not try it?

After all, if you feel better for it, then it works.

Now I haven’t done a full investigation into cupping yet. I wanted to bring it up because it hit the news and I thought I’d give you a different viewpoint than all the tutting and finger-wagging in the mainstream press.

But I can give you what I’ve found out so far…

Why the media shouldn’t sneer at this radical idea

The idea about cupping is that you place little glass jars over the body, suck out the air, and this pulls up the skin, drawing blood to the surface. This reduces soreness and helps recovery.

In this, it has a lot in common with acupuncture, which is a recognised therapy carried out by many back pain specialists. It’s something I’ve undergone in the past and – in fact – it was an acupuncturist who noticed that I had a posture problem and NOT my doctor, who prescribed pain killers for my back pain.

It’s easy for a scruffy desk-bound journalist to sneer at alternative therapy and cry “placebo effect”. But thousands of years of Chinese therapy and the testimonial of word-class champion athletes suggests that there could be something in it – or that it’s worth scientists and therapists exploring.

And look – here’s a study that claims there might be something in it.

The report has the delightfully catchy title ‘Effectiveness of home-based cupping massage compared to progressive muscle relaxation in patients with chronic neck pain.’

It comes to this conclusion:

“Cupping massage may however be better than PMR in improving well-being and decreasing pressure pain sensitivity but more studies with larger samples and longer follow-up periods are needed to confirm these results.”

Of course, you might not want to try cupping, or have access to a therapist. And like I say, more research needs to be done.

However, it’s interesting that the study brings up “progressive muscle relaxation” as a remedy for chronic pain. This is something I’ve not told you about in the past, but it’s safe and worth trying for these reasons:

  • Great for stress relief
  • A home treatment for anxiety
  • Reduces the symptoms of pain
  • Can help reduce the causes of chronic pain

Just to explain, “progressive muscle relaxation” is where you tense, then relax, your muscles, focussing on that feeling of release as you do.

It was developed by a USA physician named Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s and it widely used today to relieve anxiety, stress and chronic pain symptoms.

Here’s how to try out progressive muscle relaxation.

  • Point your feet down, and curl your toes tightly.
  • Notice this tension as you hold for 5 seconds, then relax and notice that feeling of release.
  • Repeat this about 5 times.
  • Now go onto your calf muscles and do the same thing… tensing then relaxing, focussing on the difference between the two states,
  • Then move onto your thigh muscles… buttocks… tummy… working all the way up to your neck and then your face and eyes.

Go through this routine every morning and evening and see what happens over the next few weeks. If you get good results, let us know!


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