Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete to ever live and has just recently won his 28th Olympic medal in Rio de Janeiro. Throughout the past few weeks, he has won medal after medal, swimming almost endlessly for the United States. What has helped his muscles maintain their strength after all of his races? The answer is simple: Cupping.

Cupping is an ancient deep tissue therapy that athletes of today have been taking advantage of in order to improve their performance. Though it is popular now, especially in the Olympics at the moment, it dates back to ancient Egypt, China, and the Middle East. Cupping requires the athlete’s therapist to set some herbs, paper or alcohol aflame within a special cup that can be made of glass, silicon clay, or bamboo. They would then place the cup on the athletes skin as the flame goes out, which will cause a small vacuum to form within. This pulls the skin up, which will cause the blood vessels in the area to expand. This helps with blood flow, and also acts as a type of deep-tissue massage for the athletes who have put so much stress on their muscles. Some people even use it to relieve pain and swelling in certain areas of the body after strenuous workouts or injuries. If done properly, cupping is not harmful, and has provided people with a sense of relaxation for hundreds of years. Cupping can result in burns, skin infection, discomfort, and some ugly bruises, but rarely anything serious.

Though Michael Phelps is not even near being one of the first people to utilize this ancient therapy, it sure has seemed to help him on his incredible journey as the most decorated Olympian to ever live.

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