What is ‘cupping therapy’?

With all eyes on the games in Rio, a lot of people seem to be talking about cupping therapy. This form of treatment is famous for leaving distinctive dark red marks on the backs of swimmers like Michael Phelps. It's worth examining what this practice really is, and why major athletes seem to be using it at important events.

While there are multiple types of cupping, the basic practice reportedly involves placing upturned cups on a person's back and fitting them tightly around the flesh. Despite the celebrity competitors apparently using this technique, there doesn't appear to be extensive clinical information about the practice. As Business Insider reported, this could simply be another fad athletes are turning to in the quest to improve performance.

USA Today spoke to swimmer Alex Naddour, who said that cupping was "better than any money I've spent on anything else." The source also spoke to the captain of the American Men's Gymnast Team, Chris Brooks, about the drive to try different approaches to curing health issues.

"No method hasn't been tested," Brooks said. "No stone hasn't been unturned. If there's something that's out there that somebody believes is going to be beneficial for my situation, I gave it a shot and then we ran with what worked best for my body in particular."

Different alternative therapies can be confusing for athletes. If back pain is urgent, then a professional chiropractor is the best first stop. After that, you can look for a possible solution that addresses consistent problems to keep them from getting worse. It's better to go with the most effective treatment available, and a chiropractor is a great resource for separating the hype from the facts.