Michael Phelps dominated the headlines this week but not for his athleticism. Rather, the purple spots all over his body piqued the curiosity of the media. The welts are the result of an alternative healing technique called cupping. A technique that has been used in China for centuries, blood flow to an area of a body is increased with suction cups that create a vacuum. This technique is far from the only unique healing method athletes are using to help their recovery. An ice-bath technique called cryotherapy has the athlete’s entire body except the head subjected to below one hundred degrees Celsius temperatures. Research on the effectiveness of this method has been inconclusive. Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning (CVAC) pods replicate high altitude pressure with the intent to increase oxygen absorption. Studies on this healing method have also been inconclusive and the steep price of $75,000 per pod will keep some athletes away. A final, unique healing method involves using fluid from a horse placenta to supposedly heal muscle injuries and damaged cells. This method was famously used by football star Diego Costa to prepare for the Champions League final against Real Madrid. He sought the help of famed healer Marijana Kovacevic in Belgrade. Costa, however, lasted under ten minutes on the field.

Key Points:

  • 1Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic gold medal.
  • 2Cupping is an alternative form of therapy that has been practiced in China for thousands of years.
  • 3Cupping is when suction cups are used for creating vacuum on a person’s body, which pulls the skin from the body and boosts blood flow to the area.


Cupping is an alternative form of therapy that has been practiced in China for thousands of years. The method is simple. Suction cups are used for creating vacuum on a person’s body, which pulls the skin from the body and boosts blood flow to the area.

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