Those Weird Bruises You Keep Seeing On Michael Phelps Are All From 'Cupping'

Olympic athletes are just like us, people. They love a good health trend. And this year, it's all about cupping.

It might look like Olympic athletes like Michael Phelps, Belarus swimmer Pavel Sankovich and US gymnast Alex Naddour have massive, perfectly round hickeys all over their bodies, but these marks were simply caused by heated cups placed on sore muscles.

Cupping, not to be confused with cuffing, is actually not really a trend at all, but more of an ancient Chinese practice that helps heal pain. Olympic athletes are super into it.

These Olympians have practitioners or fellow athletes put special cups on their bodies that use heat or an air pump to create suction. This separates the skin from the muscles just enough to relieve soreness.

The treatment takes a few minutes, but athletes who do it are left with circular purple bruises. The suction basically has the same result a hickey would. Except unlike hickeys, these spots look pretty badass.


But what isn't badass about the Olympics?

Apparently, this treatment helps athletes recover faster. However, there isn't that much evidence to back up whether it actually works or not.

There were two small studies done in 2012 in which participants used cupping to heal pain on specific parts of their bodies, but researchers only saw a slight difference compared to other methods. They also believed it could have been a placebo effect.

Another method called "wet cupping" involves cutting the suctioned skin as a form of medicinal bleeding. Obviously, Olympians are opting for the dry method that just leaves them with the dark circles.

Whatever floats their boats.

If you want to try cupping yourself, you can apparently buy a DIY kit on Amazon. Why the hell not?

Look at US gymnast Alex Naddour showing off his cupping mark.

Michael Phelps won his 19th gold medal last night, and he's been cupping for a while now.

It probably looks scarier than it feels...

...and I'm sure you can trust an Olympian.


Citations: Olympics in bright red spots: What is cupping? (CNN), What Are the Purple Dots on Michael Phelps? Cupping Has An Olympic Moment (NY Times)