After pictures from Olympics raise questions, FOX 61 tried the ancient practice of ‘cupping’

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WEST HARTFORD--Cupping is attracting national headlines, thanks to the bruise-like marks its leaving behind on athletes like Michael Phelps at the Rio Olympics.

At West Hartford Acupuncture, owner Jill Kleiber routinely uses cupping on her clients.

"It looks traumatic," said Kleiber. "But it's actually super gentle."

Cupping is a practice in which glass or plastic balls are used to create a vacuum under the skin. It's designed to flush out toxins and stimulate new blood flow to the area being treated.

"Waiting for the body to heal a certain area will take a week or so, but doing cupping immediately will bring the blood flow to the area," explained Kleiber.

Cupping can be done one of two ways: creating a vacuum using either suction or heat.

"The more modern way to do it involves a plunger, which literally sucks the air out and then you apply the cup onto the skin," said Kleiber.

Using heat is the more traditional method. "You quickly dip fire into a glass cup and pop the cup onto the skin before the oxygen has a chance to replenish itself," explained Kleiber.

Kleiber uses cupping to treat everything from the common cold, to infertility, to pain from injuries, making it a popular choice for athletes like Phelps.

"It's very rejuvenating and speeds up healing, so he [Phelps] could wait for those sore muscles to go away, [but] this just tricks the body into doing it even faster," said Kleiber.

Cups can be suctioned almost anywhere, including the ankles, stomach, arms or back. They are left on for anywhere from five to 20 minutes, depending upon the problem.

"They're flushing out your organs, as well as getting into the stressed and tight muscles of your erector spinae, or your back muscles," explained Kleiber.

Cupping will often leave behind large red, bruise-like marks, which can look speckled from broken capillaries. The marks are a sign that the cupping worked. "It's just a surface thing," said Kleiber. "It's not a contusion."

Kleiber said the suction therapy leaves patients with instant results. "It's just so relieving," said Kleiber. "It's really amazing."

Cupping can be done on people of all ages, including infants and the elderly, but should not be practiced on pregnant women. It may be covered by insurance, depending on your individual plan.