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Why Michael Phelps used cupping in the 2008 Beijing Olympics

  • 4 min read

In 2008, the world watched in awe as Michael Phelps soared to unprecedented Olympic glory in Beijing. Yet, amidst his exceptional athletic feats, it was not just his speed and agility that captured attention. It was the dark circular marks on his back, a result of cupping therapy. This ancient alternative medicine practice had the world wondering: Why did the most decorated Olympian of all time turn to cupping?

As Phelps clinched eight gold medals, the use of cupping therapy sparked a global fascination and ignited discussions on its benefits for athletes. In this blog, we unravel the intriguing story behind Michael's decision to incorporate cupping into his training and recovery routine, shedding light on the benefits that led him to embrace this practice. 

History of cupping therapy
The origins of cupping therapy can be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. The earliest recorded use of cupping dates back to 1550 BC in Egypt, where it was used to treat fevers, menstrual problems, and pain. In ancient China, cupping was mentioned in one of the oldest medical textbooks, the Ebers Papyrus, and it was used to treat a variety of conditions.

Over time, cupping therapy spread to other civilizations and became an integral part of traditional medicine in many cultures. It was used to treat respiratory conditions, and a range of other ailments. The practice evolved with the development of different techniques and materials for creating suction, leading to the diverse forms of cupping therapy that are used today.

Benefits of cupping therapy
Cupping therapy is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been practiced for thousands of years. It is based on the principle that the suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system. This makes it an effective treatment for pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation, and well-being.

Cupping therapy is believed to offer a wide range of benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Some of the benefits include pain relief, improved blood flow, relaxation, detoxification, and enhanced immune function. The suction created by cupping can help release tension in muscles and tissues, which may alleviate pain and promote recovery from injuries. Additionally, the increased blood flow and circulation can aid in the healing process and contribute to overall wellness.

Cupping therapy is also thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system, which can help reduce stress and anxiety. The process of cupping can create a sense of relaxation and comfort, making it a popular choice for individuals seeking relief from the pressures of daily life. Furthermore, cupping can help remove toxins from the body and support the immune system.

Cupping therapy techniques
The application of cupping therapy involves specific techniques and considerations to ensure its efficacy and safety. The process typically begins with the selection of appropriate cups. The cups are then placed on the skin at targeted locations, creating a vacuum that draws the skin and superficial tissues into the cup.
The duration and intensity of the suction, as well as the number of cups used, are determined based on the individual's tolerance and the intended therapeutic goals. During the session, the cups may remain stationary or be moved across the skin in a gliding or pulsing motion to enhance the effects of the treatment. The therapist monitors the client's response and adjusts the application as needed to ensure a comfortable and beneficial experience.

Michael Phelps and cupping in the 2008 Beijing Olympics
As Michael Phelps made waves at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, spectators were captivated not only by his athletic prowess but also by the circular marks on his back. These marks were a result of cupping therapy, a practice that Phelps turned to for its potential benefits in aiding his physical preparation and recovery for the demanding competition. The attention garnered by Phelps' use of cupping brought this traditional healing method into the spotlight and sparked widespread curiosity about its role in elite sports performance.

Phelps' decision to incorporate cupping into his training regimen shed light on the evolving landscape of sports medicine and the willingness of athletes to explore alternative approaches to optimize their performance. By embracing cupping therapy,   Phelps inadvertently catalyzed a shift in the way alternative therapies are perceived and integrated into the training and recovery routines of athletes at the highest level of competition. 

Flying Fish Cupping 
Phelps’ endorsement of cupping therapy was so strong that he decided to launch his own brand of cupping products known as Flying Fish Cupping. The Flying Fish Cupping machine is designed with medical-grade materials, ensuring durability and safety for users. Unlike other cupping sets on the market, Flying Fish Cupping, is free of plastic. The product is designed to be convenient and easy to use, allowing individuals to experience the benefits of cupping in the comfort of their own homes.

Phelps' decision to create his own brand reflects his commitment to promoting alternative wellness practices that have personally benefited him. With Flying Fish Cupping, users can trust that they are using a high-quality product endorsed by an athlete who has experienced the positive effects of cupping firsthand. The medical-grade materials used in the Flying Fish Cupping set underscore the importance of safety and efficacy in alternative healing methods.