So, in case you hadn’t noticed, I was taking a brief vacation, a long weekend if you will. As a result, I hadn’t planned on posting new completely original material until Wednesday or Thursday. (Monday’s post, some of you noticed, was a modified crosspost from my not-so-super-secret other blog.)
Then something happened.
You know you’re a committed blogger when your vacation can be interrupted by an overpowering urge to write about something in the news. Longtime regular readers (or even not-so-longtime regular readers) can probably guess right away what I’m talking about. Of course, I gave it away with the title of this post, but to drive the point home, let’s take a look at this photo:
Yes, it was all over the news Sunday night, with stories abounding over the purplish red circles on Michael Phelps’ shoulders and back as he helped the US swim team win Olympic Gold in the 4×100-meter relay. As Monday passed and I tried to stay away from skeptical news, I got more and more annoyed, as I saw credulous story after credulous story about the use of cupping by the U.S. Olympic team. It’s nothing new, either. Almost a year ago, Michael Phelps posted this to his Instagram account:
He’s not alone, either. Eight months ago, American swimmer Natalie Coughlin posted this photo of herself undergoing the treatment:
And even a longer time ago, nearly three years, to be precise:
And Olympic gymnast Alex Naddour:
Worse, given that NBC has the rights to cover the Olympics, NBC Sports has been delivering some truly irresponsible and credulous “journalism” about cupping:
Notice the tropes about this “ancient Chinese tradition” being merged with a “modern American one, winning.” It turns out that the head athletic trainer for the US Olympic Swim team, Keith Robinson, fully buys into this particular form of prescientific quackery:
“There is a psychological component where Michael has been doing this to feel good for a long time, about two years,” Mr. Robinson said. “Anything you can do to get the body to feel good — you have to use an educational assessment on it. You have to make sure that what you’re doing is causing a physiological intent to recover.
“I’m not just going to throw a stick of butter on him,” Robinson said, adding, “I’m going to make sure I have an educated approach to it.”
While there’s no question that many athletes, coaches and trainers believe in the treatment, there’s not much science to determine whether cupping offers a real physiological benefit or whether the athletes simply are enjoying a placebo effect.
If the goal is just to make the body “feel good,” then why bother with the nonsense that is cupping? A good massage would be The entire rationale behind cupping, as a hundred credulous stories tell us, is this:
In traditional Chinese medicine, the theory is that cupping can influence the flow of energy or “qi” through the body, says Bauer. If someone’s flow is blocked or stagnant, a practitioner might use cupping to impact the flow. Western practitioners may focus more on what the therapy might be doing to muscles or blood flow.
Is there any evidence for this? Certainly, as I’ve discussed in many posts about acupuncture, there’s no evidence that “qi” even exists, much less that acupuncture or cupping or anything else can influence its flow for healing effect. As for scientific evidence, there are studies. Heck, there are even systematic reviews. Typical reviews include this one, which suggests “a potential positive short-term effect of cupping therapy on reducing pain intensity compared with no treatment, heat therapy, usual care, or conventional drugs” and this PLoS review, which suggests “potential effect in the treatment of herpes zoster and other specific conditions” but concludes that “further rigorously designed trials on its use for other conditions are warranted.” However, even reviews in woo-friendly journals aren’t that enthusiastic; e.g. this one, which concludes that “there are few RCTs testing the effectiveness of cupping in the management of pain,” that “most of the existing trials are of poor quality,” and that “more rigorous studies are required before the effectiveness of cupping for the treatment of pain can be determined.” Personally, though, I tend to believe Edzard Ernst, when he did an overview of systematic reviews:
In essence, this means that the effectiveness of cupping is currently not well-documented for most conditions. This is in sharp contrast to the many claims made by the proponents of this therapeutic modality, including those practicing traditional Chinese medicine or complementary and alternative medicine.
All five systematic reviews relied on primary studies from China. Several groups have demonstrated that nearly 100% of all acupuncture studies from China generate positive results [9,10]. This finding raises considerable doubts about the reliability of these data. Table 1 also shows that the quality of the primary studies is often poor. Trials of poor quality tend to produce false positive results.
Exactly. Basically, reading the “evidence” for cupping tells me that there is no compelling evidence that cupping is effective for any condition. Certainly, there is no credible evidence that it helps athletic performance, be it in swimming or any other sport. Moreover, by the principles of science-based medicine, in which prior probability based on basic science is taken into account, the clinical evidence that weakly suggests a benefit can justifiably be called into serious question based on the extreme ridiculousness of the therapy and the lack of any sort of plausible rationale grounded in basic human physiology suggesting that it should work. In other words, the whole physiologic rationale for cupping is bullshit. As we know from other similar modalities, when that’s the case seemingly “positive” clinical trials become much less convincing.
Unfortunately, even though all of this is true, NBC Sports provided the template for a thousand local TV stations to do stories on cupping. For example, my local NBC affiliate sent one of its anchormen, Steve Garagiola, to a quack clinic to undergo cupping himself:
In this case, Lisa Vel of Renew Detroit Health is given carte blanche to lay down some howlers, like her appeal to antiquity in which she claims that “ancient Chinese medicine” like cupping has been practiced for 5,000 years. As I noted the last time I discussed cupping, even if it does date back 5,000 years, arguably so does bloodletting. If I were to argue that there must be something to bloodletting because it’s been practiced for thousands of years, you’d laugh at me—and rightly so. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to cupping (and, let’s face it, acupuncture and a lot of other traditional Chinese medicine quackery) this appeal to antiquity comes across as persuasive. I like to point out that 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, medicine and religion were one in the same, and the cause of a lot of disease was believed to be evil spirits. Indeed, what made Hippocrates’ views so revolutionary in ancient Greece is that he was among the first to argue that diseases had physical causes that could be addressed and were not caused by the gods or evil spirits.
Just out of curiosity, I checked out Renew Detroit Health’s website and immediately noticed a whole lot of quackery, primarily functional medicine, or, as I like to call it, making it up as you go along. Of course, as I’ve also mentioned many times, functional medicine embraces just about any form of pseudoscience and quackery you can imagine, complete with lab kits that cost $200 to $400 per kit. So it’s no surprise to me that Renew Detroit Health offers cupping. It’s also no surprise to me that my local NBC affiliate would so readily fall for this pseudoscience. After all, it did a when I first moved back to my hometown.
Sports celebrities are, of course, not a source of reliable health information. For one thing, athletes are notoriously superstitious. How many times have you seen stories of athletes who wear the same article of clothing endlessly as long as they are on a winning streak, no matter how disgusting it becomes? Or what about athletes who refuse to shower or shave as long as they are on a winning strak? You get the idea. Athletes have a distressing tendency to embrace pseudoscience, as long as they think it can give them an edge. For example, they believe that IV hydration helps them when it doesn’t; that kinesiology tape protects them from musculoskeletal injury when it doesn’t; and that acupuncture works when it doesn’t.
Yet, none of this stops advocates of cupping and other pseudoscience from promoting it as though it works, even though there is no evidence that it does. In fact, there is evidence that cupping can cause harm, up to and including full thickness skin necrosis that is, for all intents and purposes, no different than a full thickness burn. Just to jog your memory, I’ll repost a photo I posted before of this very phenomenon:
That’s what irritates me. Just because an Olympic champion like Michael Phelps believes that cupping works does not mean that it actually works. It doesn’t, and it can in some cases cause harm. It’s basically all risk, no objectively demonstrable benefit.
Unfortunately, that’s not the message we’re getting from the press. Oh, sure, there is the occasional nod to skepticism in some—but by no means close to all—stories in which it is mentioned, often almost in passing, that there is no evidence that cupping does any of the things its proponents claim that it does, that all it does is to produce what are, in essence, huge hickeys. However, even that little bit of skepticism, when it even manages to make its way into a story, is promptly overwhelmed by the glamor, attractiveness, and excitement of genuine Olympic athletes using this quackery. A better advertisement for cupping and traditional Chinese medicine is hard to imagine! Yet, that’s what most of the news media are providing us, brief infomercials for quackery.
193 replies on “Thanks, Michael Phelps, for glamorizing cupping quackery!”
When I saw the pictures of Phelps, I thought he did fight with a giant octopus – which would have been so much cooler than the TCM nonsense.
Sadly this is getting much more international attention.
“You have to make sure what you’re doing is causing a physiological intent to recover”
O_o Whaaa? That is a vacuum of a sentence. More of the same alt-med ‘blame the patient when the smoke and mirrors fails to actually do anything’ – “So you actually managed to drink 5L of carrot juice and do 8 coffee enemas a day while living on a raw vegan diet? And you realigned your chakras and unblocked your chi but you’re still sick? Sorry, you must not have manifested the physiological intent to recover.”
Ooh, pun. Sorry.
Looking at the pictures of these people with big red bruises, I have some troubles with this “causing a physiological intent to recover”, too. Their physiology is certainly intent on recovering from the bruises, I will give them that.
People with self-mutilation tendencies may want to avoid these types of news.
Funny, Phelps wasn’t doing this for his other gold medals. This is nuts. It’s not helping circulation – by causing bruises and petechiae, it’s interfering with it.
On the upside, someone with cupping bruises is a pretty useful indicator that they’re a prize cockwomble you should avoid wasting any time on.
Cupping, something best utilized for coffee or tea. Although, I’ve heard that some also engage in cupping as a marital aid.
On a more serious note, whyinhell do people think that just because someone is famous, they have any clue in the universe about things medical? That’s even more odd when one is listening to an athlete and trainer, rather than oh, say a physician.
That’s about as bad as getting marital advice from a priest. 😛
As for the aforementioned 5L of carrot juice, sounds yummy, although I doubt I could drink that much, I could give it the old college try.
But, that’s because I happen to like carrot juice. I also enjoy a fair number of raw vegetables – well washed, of course. 😉
As I posted elsewhere, out of curiousity I tried fire cupping (the air inside the glass cups is briefly heated with a flame to create the vacuum when applied). I found the heat felt good while it lasted, but didn’t like the suction sensation. It did help relax a trigger point in my back that I had, which I think the heat helped. I ended up with mild bruises on my back, but the cups were only on for about 10 minutes max (no clock, so I can only guess).
I wouldn’t try it again; I would rather have a nice massage with heat applied to relax the muscles. But, to relax a trigger point on me, there’s often a fair amount of pressure needed to break the muscle spasm, (which is a LOT of pain until the muscle relaxes) so I can see the “hurts so good” mentality.
I use heat all the time for my back, a good, hot bath does wonders to release spasms.
That’s even more effective than the tizanidine and hydrocodone (I only take both at bedtime, after all, muscle relaxers are merely CNS depressants and opioids are by nature CNS depressants).
Well it is more unscientific and outright illogical to claim something a quackery because ‘there is need for more’ proper scientific evaluation. And it is unscientific behaviour to write so emotionally and claim it pro-science. Just be factual, it will be less sensational, less read (unfortunately), but will be scientific nevertheless!
Any up for anaesthetic free trespassing? It makes lovely circular marks. If there’s a more ancient treatment let me know.
Ahhh–I was waiting for this! Even the venerable BBC was touting this without a hint of skepticism. They had the head of some acupuncture clinic as the “authority” as the guest and the presenter just lapped up everything he said about “the energy” and all the babblespeak about how it supposedly works. It drove me nuts at 4:00 in the morning, so I was happy to see this when I got up.
I notice that none of the Chinese athletes has these silly bruises (yet). Phelps may be a great athlete, but I honestly find it difficult to take him seriously and have quit watching the swimming–it’s pretty boring anyway. I hope he doesn’t decide to do any cupping on his baby son.
Why is it that people who ordinarily go on about China’s many human rights issues, and other problems, fall so totally in love with their pseudoprescientific “medical” practices? Why does the phrase “ancient Chinese practice” inspire such faith? Would that woman in the pictures here bind her feet because it was an “ancient Chinese practice”? Gaaaaaaaahhhh!
Just because you are the fastest swimmer alive does not mean you understand anatomy.
Well, as far as what it’s doing to blood flow, it’s rupturing blood vessels in the cupped area, causing blood to flow into the tissues. Internal bleeding FTW! Yay!
Saw an entirely credulous story on my local news today and knew that Orac would probably have a post up about it today. I suspect that there will be a surge of people undergoing cupping, now. Perhaps we’ll also see an increase in the adverse outcomes that Orac discussed before.
Remember, some cupping practitioners do combine it with bloodletting (wet cupping).
Well to be honest, if I was naive on the subject, I would assume that they have recieved advice from their physician, since it is in the interest of athletes to listen to their physician. I think the argument from authority involved here is not the authority of the athlete, but of the physician we imagine advising them behind the scenes.
When your last name is Hickie, you grow up with no choice but to learn of all things love-bite-ish, as well as how many lewd phrases rhyme with one’s last name. Since Phelps did not look like the victim of a salt vampire creature from the original Star Trek, I knew this was cupping.
If an athlete does this a lot, it’s basically reverse blood doping, as they are putting a lot of blood they could use for their muscles into the extravascular tissue space. Maybe this stimulates new blood cell production, but the time frame for that is probably on the order of several days to weeks. Either way, it doesn’t make sense. And since you hear the athletes saying this provides “myofascial release” and increases circulation to the underlying muscle, perhaps a researcher could test this using a combination of ultrasound, MRI with NMR or perhaps PET. Not that this would convince many to stop doing this. Just watching this, one can see that what gets pulled into the cup is skin and the underlying subQ fat–not any muscle. Given it’s painfulness, maybe there is some gate theory of pain happening which makes the athlete focus more on the pain of the cupping than their muscle soreness, but you could whip yourself and get the same result.
Long story short: everyone loves a winner and whatever that winner says gets taken as gospel.
Just saw this mentioned in the online version of the German journal “Der Spiegel” (comparable to Time or Newsweek for our American friends). Quite good article, explaining the background of cupping and leaving no doubt that there is absolutely no evidence that it has any effect, even citing Edzard Ernst. The title of the article (translated): “The mumbo jumbo with the sucking cups.”
Seeing lots of this on my facebook feed, looks like there are going to be some classes in DIY cupping going on in my neck of the woods.
Given the more is always better viewpoints of some in that community I fear we may see some cupping injuries when people figure if it is starting to look damaged you probably need to do it again and again to bring in the healing. *frets*
It was also preposterous to think that mould could save your life.
So what if it’s a placebo effect? If the user thinks it works, it works for their mind.
Nothing surprises me when it comes to the credulity of athletes. Aside from gulping all manner of supplements (and acting surprised when these are later found to contain banned ingredients), they are enthusiastic users of chiropractic and all manner of woo and highly superstitious as Orac noted.
Wade Boggs would eat only chicken before baseball games.
I also place primary blame on ignorant and foolish media reporting for perpetuating belief in woo through false balance and even failing completely to give an evidence-based viewpoint. The Cleveland Plain Dealer (and even worse, ESPN) were guilty of this in reporting on quack therapy administered to a former Browns quarterback, Bernie Kosar.
Would those image-conscious athletes still love cupping if they knew the practice was as much European than Chinese in history? That it was used well into the 20th century in some rural areas to treat colds? My mother told me it was used in her parents time. And there’s a hilarious scene in Polanski’s The Mighty Vampire Hunters where the processor gets rows of cups on his back after being nearly turned to a block of ice…
“Ancient Chinese” nonsense sells better than ancient western nonsense, obviously!
But of course. Cupping was recommended by Hippocrates. “Wet cupping” (in which a small cut is made in the skin before the cup is applied, for instance, is basically a form of bloodletting.
A lot of athletes are supersitious, so it’s not suprising that woo would find a foothold among them. Tried cupping and did really well on your next race, even if it was months later? Better do it every time.
I have little doubt, that cupping is exactly as effective as acupuncture.
This is where the quackademic “integrative medicine” centers at real science institutions do further damage by promoting this nonsense. CBS News interviewed Dr. Adam Perlman, executive director for Duke Integrative Medicine, who conceded that there was no scientific evidence cupping works but also “I was pleasantly surprised to see cupping marks. It really speaks to this level of integration we’re seeing with many things that are considered complementary medicine,”
The CBS article also has a quote from Dr. Michael Smith, who is medical director and chief medical editor of WebMD and who is quite credulous about (some of the) claims made about cupping. That explains why WebMD is so bad when it comes to alt med.
I know what would really help these athletes: some good old fashioned trepanning to let out the evil spirits. After all, I’m quite sure it’s an ancient practice.
I learned about wet cupping from the Boy Scouts:
What happens if one is wearing a Phiten titanium necklace during cupping therapy? Will bolts of qi lightening shoot out from their ass?
If the bruising is into the underlying muscles, I would believe, the actual performance of the athlete would decrease. The bruising at the very least would cause a temporary decrease in the muscles ability to contract.
A Humbolt squid would make a better training aid than an octopus. Humbolts are faster and much meaner than an octopus
“Cupping was recommended by Hippocrates.”
This association would make cupping even more attractive to wooites, who adore Hippocrates, especially the “let thy food be thy medicine” quote.
Oddly, they are much less apt to venerate some of Hippocrates’ other views, like when he advocated treating “hysterical” maidens by getting them married, since they were ostensibly cured by pregnancy.
But cupping is efficatious in Phelps’ case — the bumps make him more hydrodynamic, like dimples on a golf ball.
I have a theory that crop circles are evidence of cupping by extra-terrestrial aliens in an attempt to heal the Earth. It isn’t working.
# 11 darwinslapdog
Why is it that people who ordinarily go on about China’s many human rights issues, and other problems, fall so totally in love with their pseudoprescientific “medical” practices? Why does the phrase “ancient Chinese practice” inspire such faith?
I put it down to the food. It truly has evolved from ancient times and it is good and seems generally healthy so obviously ancient Chinese medicine is tool
Aspiring athletes tend to look up to established athletes, especially in the same sport. (Same thing happens with doctors, scientists, and a bunch of other fields of work.) They will tend to imitate those established athletes because the latter are proven successes, and many of the aspiring athletes want to become winners at any cost. Some of those techniques, such as improved workouts and high-performance equipment, are legitimate ways of improving performance. Others, like anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs, are regarded as illegitimate methods, but often the attitude taken is, “It’s only illegal if you get caught.” (These substances also may have long-term side effects, but they usually don’t show up until after one’s athletic career is over.) Cupping has not yet been shown to have a positive impact on performance (which is one reason the IOC hasn’t banned the practice), but the natural human tendency to lapse into post hoc ergo propter hoc will lead aspiring athletes to imitate a successful athlete like Phelps who undergoes cupping.
Just because you are the fastest swimmer alive does not mean you understand anatomy.
Of course it does, just the way every baseball player has at least a Master’s in Physics. And, come to think of it, some of those Frisbee-catching dogs in the park must have doctorates.
But Chinese food, like “traditional Chinese medicine”, incorporates many Western elements of more recent vintage. For instance, the hot peppers we associate with the cuisines of southern China (as well as India and much of southeast Asia) have only been part of these cuisines for about 300 years–peppers are native to the Americas, and were introduced to China by Dutch traders circa 1700. Fortune cookies, which Americans associate with Chinese restaurants, are an American invention, as is chop suey.
Same thing with so-called traditional Chinese medicine. Ancient acupuncture involved sticking needles in the patient’s body, but beyond that any resemblance to modern acupuncture is purely coincidental. The use of herbs in Chinese medicine was only systematized in the 20th century as well. Remember that Mao Zedong always insisted on Western medicine (as the Chinese call it) for himself, but encouraged the spread of Chinese medicine because at the time China did not have the resources to deploy Western medicine nationwide.
#21 Dangerous Bacon
I also place primary blame on ignorant and foolish media reporting for perpetuating belief in woo through false balance and even failing completely to give an evidence-based viewpoint.
I think much of the problem here is that very few journalists have any science training—mainly coming out of a pure journalistic program or perhaps a history or English background probably English, since historians are taught to weigh and compare evidence even if their techniques are not the same as a chemist’s. And let’s face it, most scientists are unlikely to be scintillating writers.
On the other hand when one gets a scientist hard or social reporting it can be a real pleasure to see them in action.
In tangentially related news, I do believe that I managed to convince a fellow in Walgreens that “alkaline water” was a complete crock the other night.*
O Krebiozen, where art thou?
* They don’t carry it, but he was asking at the register. I think he said he had been paying up to 10 dollars a gallon at Whole Foods and suchlike.
$10 a gallon, for something they claim you can DIY by tossing a slice of lemon into your water, what the heck were they doing to it….wait do I really want to know?!
#37 Eric Lund
But Chinese food, like “traditional Chinese medicine”, incorporates many Western elements of more recent vintage.
I was only being partly serious here and partly sarcastic. And you missed my weasel wording. I said “evolved”.
Also, unless you are a food junkie, or more probably a history junkie majoring in food, you are unlikely know the origins of a lot of foods. One might even be able to convince a lot of Americans that turkeys were brought over by the Pilgrims: they came from Turkey obviously. Potatoes came from Ireland. Corn from Cornwall might be a tougher sell.
If you are old enough to remember the Cultural Revolution, it had a fairly large impact on thinking in North America and, quite likely, there was a lot of propaganda about traditional medicine in that mix so aging baby boomers probably have that at the back of their mind. .
I certainly remember articles about the barefoot doctors that the Communist Party trained though I don’t remember any mention of Traditional Chinese Medicine in them. They seemed to discuss the barefoot doctors as a way to some basic (Western) health care into rural areas when China just did not have the resources to send in trained doctors and and specialist staff.
Still it is only a slight jump from, what appeared to be a good attempt to get some very basic health care into rural areas to having woo-merchants in North America and Europe start selling Traditional Chinese Medicine here.
If cupping is ancient and Chinese, why are none of the Chinese athletes doing it?
#37 Eric Lund
Afterthought: Did you know that Sichuan pepper is native to Sichuan?
Me, a food history junkie? Perish the thought.
It is a mechanical doping with cupping . Cupping massage stimulates the Cutaneous Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (CHPA) function for the release of prostaglandin E1, ß-endorphin and melanocyte-stimulating hormone for anti-inflammation and relaxation, as described in
There are three main effects of cupping massage:
1. inducing local pain to stimulate the local cells to release endorphin ((“endogenous morphine”) for pain relief and feeling good (and high),
2. promoting the local blood circulation by loosening the tight muscle;
3. flexing the joints with nutrients and its induced prostaglandins release;
These effects can improve your performance in the field competition or/ and on the bed with your lover(s), maybe, more than one. I documented my discovery and experiental results in Chapter 7 of my book “”Resonant Excitation of Sexual Orgasms” in http://www.actionlove.com/love/book.htm when I troubleshooted my low back during 1987-1994 with the vacuum-cupping massage method . At that time, I had to apply the cupping massage to perineum and I got a surprise discovery – erecting harder and lasting longer. Cupping massage on the perineum is inconvenient after all. Thus, I invented “Aquila Anal-Breathing, Vagus-Nerve-Stimulation (VNS) QiGong” for stretching the pelvic floor muscle and the internal organs in the pelvic cavity to achieve more effective than perineal cupping massage as described in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id7tGe-kR5g
Aquila Anal-Breathing Qigong is an evolution of my life experience!
Agreed completely, but one thing I did want to point out about bloodletting, which is mentioned in the article – for a few very specific conditions, like hemochromatosis and porphyria cutanea tarda, taking blood on a regular basis actually is a mainstream, clinically accepted disease management treatment with peer-reviewed research and experience behind it.. In the case of hemochromatosis the purpose is to reduce the amount of iron and red blood cells, and it’s done as part of ongoing disease management.
So it might not be the best example to use as a quack treatment…yes, overall, but not entirely.
I heard about this on the Today programme this morning (UK, Radio 4). To say I spat my cornflakes at the radio would be, well, quite true.
The non-impartial loon they chose to interview waffled on about, “It goes back to ancient times, I can give you thousands of scientific papers” when the presenter asked him if cupping had any scientific support. Unfortunately this was the last question she asked, and the only critical one, after he had had a couple of minutes to claim that “it works by liberating muscle energy” and other such drivel. ATP-ADP cycle, anyone?
Another chapter in the long story of why we need science journalists, not gullible spokesmodels reading the news. As soon as I saw those photos, I knew a bunch of people who never heard of this quackery would rush to the quack sites to read up on the BS they would begin using to defend this idiocy.
One would think the team doctors would try to stop this at least during the games.
NBC has a lot of apologizing and explaining to do.
Getting athletes to do this is another form of “doping”.
It’s like Mark Spitz’s quote about how he told the Russians the mustache helped his performance — and next year, all the Russians had mustaches.
I do believe that it was the Russians who told the Americans about steroids lol. But I don’t think of steroids as woo.
Ah, I had almost forgotten that my late mother had a five-foot-high poster of Mark Spitz on the inside of the semifinished basement’s bathroom door when I was a kid. I wish I had asked her what the hell that was all about when I had a chance, but thank you for reactivating the memory.
It is quackery to claim myriad benefits of a therapy when only small lousy studies have been done on it. If Alexander Fleming had skipped the whole “science” thing and just advocated penicillin without any evidence, he would have been a quack. In fact it’s very clear that cupping practitioners (like all alt med providers) are far more interested in making money than proving their ideas hold merit, and they should be reviled for it.
I saw a different piece with an NBC broadcaster trying the treatment, Michelle Tafoya maybe? Asked myself, ‘is that cupping’? Which I only know as a term having been referenced here.
FWIW, I don’t think this pub will result in lots of copycat cupping behavior as Eric suggests or serves as an ad for cupping per se as Orac suggested. The piece I saw was very gee-whiz positive about the performance benefit claimed by the athletes, but emphasized that it was painful. Over-all, I took the frame to be: ‘This is what separates the superstars from “normal athletes” They’re so obsessive they’ll do something extremely painful and weird to have even a chance of cutting another .01 off their best time’.
Rather, I take the credulity as an ad for Alt Med in general. Cupping maybe too far over the top for you, but the principle of ‘daring, unusual, mysterious’ training methods permeates all levels of sport. Just check out the recreational distance runners shopping at GNC. In fact, if the influence of these pieces was specific to cupping that would be better, as most non-Olympians who tried it would react with ‘that was dumb, never do that again.’
Which is to say, the pieces about cupping aren’t about cupping. The practice is just a metonymy for the theme of the Olympian differance of Olympic jocks, a trope of what separates them form us, in that we can’t or wouldn’t follow that obsessive a path. But that general ideological principle of ‘medical miracles are out there!’ is necessarily employed in constructing the larger mythology, and will get a free ride into the viewers’ minds in ways that could manifest in an increased attraction to various more routine forms of ‘health/fitness’ pseudoscience.
Here is from manufacturer’s website:
«During Acucups® cupping massage, tension is released. When muscles relax, the body releases endorphins and creates a relaxing warmness throughout. Lactic acid is removed by the suctioning action and helps the muscles get the oxygen needed to maintain their health. Cupping massage will also help stretch out the muscles to release tension that has built up in that area and restore flexibility which will help guard against future injury. »
«Athletes worldwide are turning to cupping massage to give their body the necessary care after training, competitions, and games. »
This sounds scientific to me. If you can prove that endorphins are created and the cups remove metabolic by-products, then it is good therapy.
I think I am going to disagree with you (everyone?) on this. But, first let me note that I certainly agree that the publicity will most probably lead to all kinds of quacks making money off of this.
However, to say that the most accomplished swimmer in history does not have any idea what he is doing to his body? And, your proof is? If you look, the cup marks on Phelps are only on very specific muscle groups and only on one side of his body. There were no new marks when he swam the 200 butterfly prelims ( which might eliminate the superstition question?).
Phelps is not some new little swimmer trying a fad thing. At his age, he is very familiar with what his body does and what it responds to.
Essentially, the studies mentioned do not prove much one way or another. I could find no mention of any study that covered athletics and muscle soreness, etc. But, in a way, that is not the point. Cupping is quickly done and the results (whatever they are) are fast. Thus, it can be done in a warmup room before a race. The last thing you would want is a massage at this time. And, I think, this is what everyone is overlooking – there is a specific purpose when Michael does this. It is done to a very targeted area. It is done by an highly experienced athletic trainer.
As I earlier said, I agree with all that the fall out from this will not be good. But, to say that, “reading the “evidence” for cupping tells me that there is no compelling evidence that cupping is effective for any condition.” Seems to miss a BIG gold medal hanging around his neck.
Advertising copy ain’t science. You sound exactly the type of mark they want. Can I interest in some NEW! and IMPROVED! cups?
As I recollect Phelps has won multiple gold medals without cupping. Obviously (by your logic) not cupping is what wins medals.
You don’t need much.
What I mean is that Endorphins and lactic acid can be scientifically tested. If Endorphins were found to increase during/after cupping, then we have a biologically plausible justification for cupping. Same can be said about Lactic Acid.
Most people here are so anti-alternative that they are anti-science. The title of this blog is a misnomer. It should read: profitblogs.com/ridicule
You put the anal in analgesic!
Who cares. If they believe it has some kind of benefit, then who are we to judge? This article is a waste of time. what’s your next Blog how people should or shouldn’t live their lives?
Debora Mackenzie owes me a new irony meter.
I’m a physician and am well aware of this. However, such conditions and uses are very uncommon, which is why it didn’t seem worthwhile to mention these two rare conditions. If you count my residency I’ve been practicing medicine nearly 30 years now, and I’ve never seen a case or had a patient undergoing bloodletting for such conditions. Basically, mentioning this would have messed up the flow of the sentence and didn’t seem worth it. OTOH, after 11 years of blogging, I should have known there would be a pedant somewhere who would bring it up.
Well to be totally honest and scientific, Tenfold, it’s simply bullshit to claim that the suction from cupping magically pulls out only lactic acid and other “toxins”, and only improves the flow of “oxygen”, “endorphins” and other “good things”. It’s completely nonsense.
Now, you’re right that this could be easily tested, but that’s toothfairy science. Why should anyone bother searching for the mechanism by which cupping works if it has not been demonstrated to work in the first place? That is the work that remains undone.
Regardless, what you’ll find on this blog is that the people here do not denigrate researchers who actually go out and test hypotheses (even wild ones) in well designed studies. But that has not happened with cupping – we only have small, crappy studies that you can’t draw any conclusions from.
If the language of Orac and commenters is a bit strong, a lot of that is indignation at alt-med providers who charge money for unproven medicine. In fact, they go beyond merely providing this therapy, but lie their asses off about it – the typical provider’s website is overflowing with wild hypotheses presented as facts, and anecdotes presented as data.
There is a proper way to conduct medical research, and it has not been followed with cupping. Its practitioners prefer to skip the hard work of proving safety and effectiveness, and have gone straight to charging people for it while lying to their faces.
Many athletes use cups and they really, boy I know. I played catcher a few times in the past (long past).
I agree. Do they (or you) have any credible proof such a thing happens? I got $5 that says ‘no’.
Orac: “Basically, mentioning this would have messed up the flow of the sentence and didn’t seem worth it. ”
Not to mention screwing up the qi.
There must be a great mechanism I’m missing, explaining how cupping sucks lactic acid away from muscles. Well no there isn’t, but mechanisms are for science sissies.
And if this is how cupping is supposed to work, why on earth would you do it _before_ a race? Shouldn’t you be going it in the middle of competition, or would the drag coefficient of the cups cancel the slurped-out lactic acid (which is winding up in a mysterious location where it cannot affect the body?).
It is all so very strange. If only Hippocrates was here to explain it.
What Michael Phelp’s coach said reminded me of what I’ve heard people who have many tattoos say; that there is an addictive quality to the feeling of pain from getting one. And, even for those who practicing cutting, they say it makes them feel better. Neither one is my preference but to each their own.
The problem becomes when adherents start selling cupping as anything but hurting yourself to feel better in mind (while destroying your body).
Maybe he wins gold medals in spite of his using cupping.
There could be more by-products of metabolism besides Lactic Acid being sucked out of the Lymphatic System.
You would have to apply a gel on the skin, one that absorbs water-solubles, and then do the cupping. You would then take the gel and run it through a chromatography column or two and see what you get.
This may be an unproven therapy, but that is not to say that it doesn’t work. This has much more biological plausibility than say…homeopathy
No Luc Montagnier jokes, or I will expose Gallo as being a profiteer and virus-thief.
“..I don’t think this pub will result in lots of copycat cupping behavior..”
Sadmar, never underestimate your fellow man. After all Pokemon Go is a thing.
Ok, I’m done now. Sometimes I think commenting is addicting.
Not that I find it surprising, but Gwyneth Paltrow was also showing up in public with visible cupping marks.
I didn’t know about Jennifer Aniston, however.
Here’s another incredulous piece on celebrity cupping:
[…] Source: Thanks, Michael Phelps, for glamorizing cupping quackery! […]
Best explanation for those marks all over Phelps was that he must have fallen asleep on all his medals. But yeah, it’s great to hear all this woofuckery talk on NBC Sports.
@72, one might wonder if those are actually ‘conscious uncupping’ marks…..
I’ll be here all week
Oh, look, a crop of fresh pseudonyms. Just by the by, when was “Stradlater” last seen?
Stradlater was banned as a sock. These new pseudonyms are new people brought in by the popularity of my two cupping posts. Neither their IPs nor, as far as I can tell, their styles match the previous socks. It’s possible one of the old trolls might have sneaked through, though, given the increased traffic and my decreased attention during vacation. I will continue to monitor.
Let me know when he reaches Havana.
Well, that’s what killfiles are for. So it goes, “Tenfold Shrew.”
Oh, looking over his/her/its posts, I do now think Tenfold Shrew is the morphing mercury troll using an IP address I hadn’t seen before. He/she/it is gone. For now.
“But, to say that, “reading the “evidence” for cupping tells me that there is no compelling evidence that cupping is effective for any condition.” Seems to miss a BIG gold medal hanging around his neck.”
What about the various medals he’s won without apparently using cupping?
The more important issue is that the kind of ‘gee whiz’ stories the Olympic coverage gave to cupping gives a general legitimating effect to magical thinking on health/fitness/etc. Even if no one tries cupping due to these stories, if the viewers find the narrative compelling, they might become more open to trying some other AltMed thing. Not that much, probably, but the ideological streams are created one drop at a time.
Copycat behavior is almost always about the copier, and the copied can be pretty much anything. Media effects are not a stimulus-response thing. In media studies, we call this either the ‘hypodermic theory’ or ‘the bullet theory’, and those are point-and-laugh pejoratives. The moral panics over pop culture never die, though, they just shift targets. It used to be blaming suicides on Ozzy, Before that it was juveniille delinquency and comic books.
The specifics of the stories about cupping present it as something quite different from steroids: which promise to increase strength generally, and can have few obstacles to use. In contrast, the cupping hurts, and offers only limited athletic benefit that would matter to a Phelps or Nadour, but not your average jock. It’s like swimmers and cyclists who used to do blood-packing – who the hell would go through that if they didn’t think it could mean the difference in a short race where victory van set you up for the rest of your life, and 2nd place means going back to the anonymity of a crappy job?
“Seems to miss a BIG gold medal hanging around his neck.”
That comment seems to have missed Alex Naddour’s routines on Floor Exercise and Pommel Horse. He fell badly on the floor, and missed his dismount on the horse…
Well, Freddie Mercury did not do a good job in popularizing AZT.
Maybe Phelps can do better with cupping.
The IOC would frankly prohibit traditional Olympic nudity, and you’re whining about observations of dopey hipsterism on a blog?
Michael Phelps also spent years eating almost nothing but vast amounts of junk food. Only recently has he had good nutritional advice. He also has a reckless streak that could have permanently derailed his legacy. This guy does not have a whole lot going on upstairs. Elite athletes I’ve known will fall for almost anything to have an edge, especially if they are being expensively advised by those with fancy-sounding but marginal credentials.
That’s another plonk, Fendelsworth. You’re really cluttering up my killfile.
Possibly the greatest dog musher ever, George Attla said during his heyday, ” If someone sees me giving my lead dog a cigarette then the next week, everyone’s lead dog will be smoking.
OMG… New Age Hickies.
I wonder why the practice didn’t gain more attention in 2008? If you google chinese swimmers 2008 cupping, its easy to find.
BTW, I could never understand why someone would think a celebrity endorsement would be worth listening to, until I heard someone comment, “they have all that money, they’re able to pick the best treatments and doctors…must be something to it…”
I see a lot of different views and opinions on what is and what should be. The statement I don’t see is “I have 19 Olympic Gold Medals” I’m also quite confident that Mr Phelps really doesn’t give a crap about what anyone thinks. At the end of the day he’s a champion, with or without bruises.
Probably beating a dead horse here. But, I just watched Phelps become the oldest Olympian ever to win an individual event. Cup marks all over his back. For him – it works! How it works is for science to figure out.
I do think the fact that it is fast and convenient has something to do with it.
Does any of this justify all the woo that will come about cupping? Obviously not. But, to make a blanket statement and say that it doesn’t work and ignore the evidence in front of your eyes is not real scientific either.
And, in retrospect, I think what upset me about Orc’s post was the title that Phelps “was glamorizing cupping”. Its pretty hard to hide it. He has not come out and endorsed it like a favorite shoe. Its the media that has gone nuts over this. Blame them.
Lots of confirmation bias here. It might not be therapeutic for some but it might be for others. Traditional east asian treatments are customized for the individual on a person-by-person basis. Doing “surveys” or studies cannot verify the efficacy for any given treatment because every one has different bodies. One person’s ailment does not equal another person’s because they have different diets, lifestyles, allergies, sensitivities…etc. Furthermore, not all practitioners are the same, there’s no dependable centralized standard, so there can’t be any real study. Calling it medicine is a misnomer since our assumption is: medicine works immediately for everyone with side effects for some. Acupuncture/cupping/herbal treatments are different for everyone, customized to the individual’s unique health profile, with no side effects like the pills for pharmacies, which might help most, but there’s always a percentage that will experience nausea vomiting headache tinnitus…etc. it might take some a week to feel positive effects, it might take some months to feel any benefit. It’s trial and error fine tuning for ailments that western medicine fails in (insomnia, chronic pain…etc.)
Posting the worst case scenario of those burn marks is the equivalent of posting a photograph of plane crash saying “Don’t fly, EVER”. This post is full of editorialized summaries and emotional rants. I’ve never read a more unscientific post than this one. Are there quacks? Of COURSE. Does that mean EVERYONE who has undergone these treatments are superstitious placebo chumps swallowing “bullshit”? You’d have to travel to the home of eastern medicine and ask actual patients why they’re throwing their money away, but I doubt the author knows anyone.
Lorelei, first off, all medications don’t work immediately, indeed, few do.
Case in point, my thyroid medication took months to fully show results, with the dosage being changed to suit my hyperthyroidism.
Second, the author here is a physician. He most certainly does know medicine and he knows it quite well, although his specialty is oncology.
Finally, herbals may or may not work, depending upon crop yield, crop quality, preservation methods used, freshness and all manner of other factors. Real medication has standardized dosages, where the same dose is found in each tablet, capsule or other dosage form. So, if one were prescribed digoxin, one would have the precise dosage prescribed each and every time, whereas if one consumed foxglove, one would have wildly varying dosages and one would likely suffer from digitalis toxicity.
If I were treating a patient for nerve agent intoxication, sure, belladonna could work to treat the symptoms, but an atropine autoinjector would have a precise dosage of atropine and hence, would have predictable results.
Finally, cupping doesn’t work for any of the conditions described. Period. Accupuncture is precisely as effective as a placebo. Period.
When something is equal in effect on disease as a placebo, it’s a placebo in and of itself.
The only thing accupuncture needles may be good for are for improvised microwave antennae.
So, it should be looked at because it’s “east asian?” Have you not read that this “cupping” is something that was used all over the globe, including (gasp!) in Greece? But, I know, Ancient European Medicine doesn’t sound nearly as sexy.
@Ellie, leeches were used for thousands of years as well, so was bloodletting for the flu, should we bring both back for the same indication today? Maybe trepanning to let evil spirits get out of the body?
Of course, but only if one uses Ancient Asian techniques.
[…] they’re enough to bring me briefly out of my vacation to bang out a quick post. So it was when I wrote my post yesterday about Michael Phelps’ enthusiasm for cupping, a practice attributed to traditional Chinese […]
“Basically, mentioning this would have messed up the flow of the sentence and didn’t seem worth it. OTOH, after 11 years of blogging, I should have known there would be a pedant somewhere who would bring it up.”
I’m sorry that you have felt the need to refer to someone bringing up a legitimate point as a “pedant,” or trot out your qualifications in response. And I am sure that you would understand that the mere fact that you have not personally seen a patient undergoing this treatment doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. PCT and hemachromatosis are fairly rare and many doctors never see a single patient with either condition. I would think that being completely factual and accurate would be more important than the “flow of the sentence,” and there are a lot of other ancient quack medical practices one could bring up instead.
I think it’s obvious gray paint job makes cars go faster. I’ve seen the evidence – it’s for science to figure out why.
If they might or might not be therapeutic, wouldn’t it make sense to insist they’re not marketed as effective treatments?
It really doesn’t work like that. That is a prime example of what is called special pleading.
Firstly, how could you recommend something if there was no rhyme or reason about it, like you seem to insist Traditional east Asian treatments are… If acupuncture and cupping are such a crap shoot where the practitioners would have to reinvent the wheel for every single patient – how would they be different from just a random guy with a punch of tacks or a some dude with zippo and shotglasses?
Since you’re not saying that, it’s obvious there is some structure to the whole “tradition”.
Otherwise how you anybody discern the quacks you admit are there, from the non-quack practitioners?
…and secondly, it could easily be studied. If I were to make a large scale study seeing health effects of for example vegan diet versus “average” diet, I could compare vegans who prepared their foods differently than other vegans, to the control group who (gasp) also cooked their food their own way. If, like you say, acupuncture is (somewhat) different for everybody, you could pool a large number of participants and compare the end results to otherwise similar group not receiving acupuncture. You know, like they do in actual studies.
If you object to this by insisting acupuncture or cupping can’t be studied because they don’t show consistent or verifiable results… …that’s not an excuse, that a reason not to rely on acupuncture or cupping.
Phelps winning a gold medal is evidence cupping works?! Hahahahahahaha
Has anyone who is commenting negatively on the practice of cupping tried it? I see in the previous comments that one person wrote that they had done so and it worked to help their back feel better, but they would not do it again.
Okay. Asparagus isn’t for everyone either. I have tried cupping a few times. I appreciated the pain relief.
The first few times, I had cold suction on my knee (as part of healing a meniscus tear) and heated on my lower back (healing a chronic injury). Both types of suction relieved my pain!
I would prefer to not do the heated one again, because I am nervous around fire. (No burns, a few red suction marks faded after a few days.)
For the curious: Cold suction = $4 short-handled sink plunger that my physical therapist bought at the hardware store, swiped Vaseline around the rim, and lifted the skin and flesh in a few spots around my kneecap. This felt amazing!
How does this work? The lymphatic system responds well to you moving your own body, massage and gentle (to firm, depending) exercises. There are many ways that you can help your body feel better. Books, videos, doctors, good personal trainers can help you figure out the best activities and treatments for your situation.
Yes, the placebo effect is real. However, I think that if a technique can bring relief (without further harm to the person) without taking a mind or body-altering drug, I am all for it.
Disclosure: I am a trained massage therapist, with 30+ years experience.
You may recall that I recounted my own experience with this arcane modality several weeks ago ( one of my gentlemen paid for acupuncture for my leg injury and *la maitresse de wu** chinoise* suggested cupping).
Needless to say, I didn’t return: it was awful. She placed more than a dozen glass cups/ containers of varying size along my leg starting near my waist- the three which were highest up pulled and hurt- leaving large purple bruises which lasted and made me look like a real life practitioner of that secret Japanese venue- women and octopus porn.
** woo in French?
[…] in astory arguing that cupping “invites people to distrust science.” ScienceBlogs had a similar take, with a post entitled “Thanks, Michael Phelps, for glamorizing cupping […]
It’s really ironic to see you bashing alleged confirmation bias here, when your apologia to cupping is a great heaping pile of confirmation bias. You’re basically saying that it works for some people, so we shouldn’t bash it.
It makes me wonder how closely you’ve been reading the original post and the comments. No one here doubts that many people feel better after cupping. The problem is that cupping practitioners have done nothing to prove it’s more than a theatrical placebo.
I would think that lying to someone’s face to take their money is a bad thing. When cupping and acupuncture providers claim there services are ancient, well established and proven healing methods, that’s exactly what they’re doing. They are not being honest to their patients.
You say this is quackery yet will go to a medical doctor who hands out pharmaceutal drugs like candy that cause more side effects than they fix. Go figure. Just because you dont understand how these things work dont mean that they dont work. Youd rather go get butchered by medical doctors than to try something alternative. Keep taking your pills and getting surgery. Ill keep doing the alternatives that really work.
Where are these doctors who had out drugs like candy? Names. I want names. After all, that seems highly unethical, if not downright illegal, and something should be done about it!
“Just because you dont understand how these things work dont [sic] mean that they dont work.”
I think we’re starting to get to the root of your problem.
Perhaps, you’d like to enlighten us by explaining how cupping works. Please be specific! Thanks in advance.
You need to find yourself a better candy store.
Oh, pray tell what alternative would have removed the two bone splinters from my wrist while setting the hamate bone and saved me from that bit of surgery (and all of 4 stitches)?
And as for my “candy”, I got a prescription for over-the-counter pain killers (cheaper with the prescription).
Clearly you have access to something that would have been so much better for my situation. The world is eagerly awaiting.
But on a serious note, let me rephrase your sentence…
Youd [sic] rather go get scientifically validated treatment with demonstrated efficacy than to try this stuff I heard this guy say is really good.. Keep taking your pills and getting surgery. Ill keep doing the alternatives that those peddling them tell me really work.
I’ve never gotten a prescription for candy.
I disagree with the basic premise. Logically, any of these three is possible:
– Cupping improves his performance through some physical means.
– Cupping has no noticeable effect on his performance.
– Cupping reduces his performance, but he compensates via other mechanisms.
Given what we know, I’d suggest that cupping has no noticeable effect on his performance, much like beards do not affect a baseball player’s ability and a lucky rabbit’s foot has no impact on a person’s ability to roll craps. However, if you’ve got data please feel free to share.
Must’ve been a pretty minor, peripheral tear. Moreover,
Yes, I have one of these.
*gets out ruler*
The drains* in my kitchen sink are over 3 inches in diameter.** The inner diameter of the plunger (i.e., accounting for the sealing lip) is 3.75 inches. My knee is generously 2.5 inches from medial to lateral sides.
I’m seeing some problem with physical possibility here. In fact, I doubt I could even “plunge” my thigh with the famous sealing agent known as petroleum jelly.
* Why the f*ck everybody is putting in double-pan sinks around here baffles me.
** YES I DO NEED TO WASH THEM, THANK YOU.
@gaist: This, so much.
Why does alternative medicine have such incredible power to make people feel better, but doesn’t ever seem to have objective effects?
I’m still waiting to see a Reiki practitioner set a broken femur, or therapeutic touch reattach a severed finger.
@ #93, Sandman2
Wrong, sleepyhead equine corpse abuser. If the internet is to be believed: (http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/oldest-youngest.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Swahn). With apologies to our kind host (the Machine Mind Overlord) for pedantry, for which, like certain typographical error corrections, he has expressed a certain dislike, but I hope not worthy of the Brutal Banhammer.
Are we sure Phelps is the oldest? I found reference to the guy who won gold in shooting in 1912 at the ripe old age of 64 years and 280 days. “The oldest woman ever to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event was British archery winner Sybil “Queenie” Newall who won gold in the Double National Round in 1908, aged 53 years, 275 days.”
Olympians were a lot older in the old days.
^ P.S. Five’ll get you ten that MJD has nothing useful to offer regarding the medical application of sink plungers in conjunction with Vaseline.
I think with a lot of people into things like cupping and acupuncture, there is an addictive, almost OCD quality to it. They seem to get some sort of psychological boost that they want to repeat.
I think the same thing happens with those who cover their bodies with tattoos or piercings (have neither myself)
[…] Orac found some choice photos of Phelps with the cupping in progress. […]
Justatech: Phelps isn’t even the oldest Olympian in these Olympics. Misty-Rose Trainor is in her forties, Oksina Chusovitna is 43, and I think there are a few fifty-year-olds in the shooting and equestrian events.
No you didn’t! Phelps is 31. Carlos Lopes won the Olympic marathon in 1984 at the age of 37.Hell, cyclist Kristin Armstrong won the individual time trial for the third consecutive Olympics at the age of 43! Yes, I just watched her win. No hickies, either.
Most people missed the little sentence about 1/4 of the way through this story. That was ” there is no proof this therapy works better that drugs.” There it is.. The main complaint of this article.. Science can not make money from it.
Ill keep doing the alternatives that really work.
So they work but you have to keep doing them. OK.
I must be quackers then…. I have a chronic condition & I have been using cupping and acupuncture for over two years now to assist in the management of my condition. A condition in which causes wide spread pain and debilitating fatigue. Cupping has allowed me to control the pain, encourage circulation and also assist greatly with fatigue. The alternatives western medicine offered were anti depressants and opiates. I see a qualified practitioner with many years of experience. I have a semblance of a life that I otherwise would not have. I don’t have tattoos, piercings or thoughts of selling mutilation!
lol, The last round of PT I had, the therapist got out this small plunger, about 3″ in diameter to use to suck on the kneecap. I laughed when she got it out, and asked what the “heck” that was for. She said it was to hold on to my kneecap so she could move it around, to increase the mobility. It felt exactly like you think it would, like someone had stuck a plunger on your knee and was wiggling it around.(the plunger, not the kneecap) The laughter was good therapy, but it was a seriously stupid waste of time.
I keep wondering why these cuppers don’t use technology–a vacuum cleaner hose would accomplish the same thing, wouldn’t it? By accomplish I mean, give you round red bruises.
On an entirely unrelated topic, the US Army is testing a Zika virus vaccine. It’s a second clinical preclinical model.
“But, I just watched Phelps become the oldest Olympian ever to win an individual event.”
“No you didn’t! Phelps is 31. Carlos Lopes won the Olympic marathon in 1984 at the age of 37.Hell, cyclist Kristin Armstrong won the individual time trial for the third consecutive Olympics at the age of 43! Yes, I just watched her win. No hickies, either.”
And Fabian Cancellara is 35…
Did you forget about Carl Lewis, Joe DeLoach, Andre Phillips, Mary Joe Fernández, Lance Armstrong…?
They were considered sporting heroes, but we know that they were cheaters. About Phelps, it’s the same. According to Dr. Zhanghao, it’s not normal to win so many medals, and some years ago he accused Phelps of doping. Also Dr. Koudinov, Dr. Koelsch, Dr. Bernardi, Cherniak and other scholars proved that listening music by using earphones (some minutes before the start) can improves blood oxygen capacity and is a performance enhancement. An unfair advantage, don’t you think? About the cupping therapy, that’s not “an ancient Chinese tradition” (Egyptians, Greeks, Romans knew it too!), and it’s scientifically proved that it reduces pain. I don’t like to say it, and I’m sorry, but Phelps is a cheater for sure! Like L.Armstrong and others…
“Just because you dont understand how these things work dont mean that they dont work…Ill keep doing the alternatives that really work.”
I’d take those “alternatives” except that the side effects are really horrific (like grammaritis and punctuation mark deficiency).
Especially considering how terribly unhealthy the ancient Chinese were.
We don’t have ancient records, but in about 1900, the average lifespan for a man in rural China, the areas that would be most likely to be using “traditional Chinese medicine” was 25. For women, it was only 24 (because they died in childbirth).
Very clearly, whatever medicine they were using, it didn’t work. Why should we try to emulate that?
I am struck by the irony of the trainer’s first comment: It makes him feel better, so we do it.
All I can think is, yeah, hickies feel good, but if you want a hickey, do it the fun way.
@Narad – The tear was not minor; the meniscus was hanging by a thread. At the time, I was overweight by 130+ pounds and 40 years old. Surgery was unavoidable, according to my doctor.
However, frequent physical therapy, following directions to rest my knee and do frequent stretches at home, my mutant healing powers, electrical stimulation and this cold cupping technique combined to heal my knee. (I also see a chiropractor regularly and receive weekly acupuncture treatments.)
The plunger was applied to my kneecap, and on the sides of the of my knee. I have linebacker-sized leg joints; when I bend my knee to a 90-degree angle, from each crease to the center of the kneecap, I measure 6 inches.
Not every physical technique or medication or herb, etc works for every single person. I shared my experience to offer a perspective that led to a successful outcome.
This plunger resembled this one, except it had a wooden handle:
And, modern sanitation and refrigeration has extended lifespans and the average health of people with access to these privileges extremely quickly.
Childbirth killed many women throughout history until modern medicine advanced to allow for survival of C-sections, among other birth complications.
Toss in vaccines and a knowledge of germ theory, and science has given us all a chance of a healthy life.
P.S. Vaseline or another lubricant was used.
“VAnd, modern sanitation and refrigeration has extended lifespans and the average health of people with access to these privileges extremely quickly.”
And only that? Smallpox, killing a bit over 1/3 of its victims doesn’t count and polio doesn’t count either.
“Childbirth killed many women throughout history until modern medicine advanced to allow for survival of C-sections, among other birth complications.”
C-section, properly called Cesarean Section, named after some guy who was born via that method, born in 44 BC. That’s recent?!
I’m guessing that that Salk doctor hasn’t been born for you.
Just wait until that Hawking guy is born for you! Your mind will be even more blown.
You said you had a meniscus tear. These do not heal if they’re located in the part of the cartilage with no blood supply.* I’m not sure what “hanging by a thread” is supposed to mean here; what was actually torn? Where was it going to go? Which one?
* As I’ve noted before, I had a partial lateral and medial meniscectomy some nine or ten years ago after a struggle duriing some random street violence. I don’t know whether the procedure would still be recommended, but the explanation then was that if reinjured, it might require a complete meniscectomy.
C-section, properly called Cesarean Section, named after some guy who was born via that method, born in 44 BC. That’s recent?!
If you are referring to Julius Caesar, you have his birth date wrong.
The word Caesar itself comes from the Latin caesus, which translates to “was cut”. Because of the name, a myth arose that Julius Caesar was delivered this way. This is likely untrue since his mother was reported to have been alive contemporaneously with Caesar at a time when all C-sections were done only upon pregnant death of the mother.
There is an equally compelling theory of the Caesar etymology, and that is caesai (elephant). Julius Caesar apparently favored this interpretation of his name by casting coins with elephant images.
There is also the latin caesaries, which means “head of hair”. This is another possibility.
Since it’s pendant day:
Wzrd1 @132: For the record, the form of Cesarean Section that was named for Julius Caesar is not a survival surgery for the mother. Up until modern surgical techniques it was what you did after the mother died but you thought the baby might still be moving.
(Until antibiotics any abdominal surgery was a terrible idea.)
So for the purposes of “counting” towards decreasing maternal mortality, yes, it’s modern.
I am sorry that you had to have this surgery after an assault. That sounds like a terrible experience.
“Hanging by a thread” is my term. The doctor stated firmly that a surgery would definitely be necessary because the other treatments would likely not be enough.
They were, as I described above. I can walk easily and run, (if I have to; I still am overweight). Placebo or not – magic or medicine – I enjoy the results.
@JustaTech Exactly so. Thank you.
Relevant links about Cesarean sections:
Relevant link about vaccines:
And here we are far away from the topic of the article.
Cupping is weird. I first read about in the last chapter of Robin Hood. I learned the definition of this as an adult. I was extremely leery of its efficacy.
Friends of had tried it and swore by its healing power. Dubious until the moment of the first time, I was surprised at how much better my knee felt after the first treatment.
I have described above the two times that I tried this technique. I got reduction of pain and swelling in my knee, and pain relief in my lower back. I also wrote about other activities and treatments that I did to speed my recovery.
To skeptics: I suggest that you don’t knock any given noun or activity until you try it!! Or do consider keeping an open mind that some things can work well for others.
I am sorry that you had to have surgery after that random act of violence happened to you.
The term “hanging by a thread” was mine, not my doctor’s. (I am not a surgeon, nor a medical school student.) She was certain that I would need surgery, but my insurance required physical therapy first.
These methods worked. I did not need surgery. I shared the details above. After several months of treatment, I could walk without and run without pain or buckling, when needed. (Several years later, I am still overweight, but all is well.)
@JustaTech Exactly. A Google search shows the history of the modern Cesarean section*:
Vaccine info link:
Back to the article…
I first heard of cupping in the last chapter of Robin Hood. This book of fiction did accurately share about the practice of cupping. However, it did not describe the details.
As a young adult, I found out these details. “Ewww!” I thought. 20 years later, I had my first experience, on my knee. Early in 2016, I had my second experience, which was done with heat.
Both methods of cupping worked. However, I am not wild about the heated method.
I suggest that we all remember that there are things that work well for others that do not work well for ourselves.
*Apologies for not spelling this term out before, @Wzrd1.
I apologize, dear moderator.
I rewrote my earlier post because I did not see it post. I forgot that posts are reviewed before posting.
Please choose one of my previous posts and this one to delete.
I just found this article that describes the outcome of a scientific studies of cupping.
tl;dr = The studies state that cupping can help, in a few ways. However, the sample size in the studies was on the smaller side.
Greenmedinfo? Lol. Houston, I think we have a problem.
I just found this article . . . . greenmedinfo.com
You are barking up the wrong squirrel.
^ I hope the b0rk3d blockquote isn’t that severe.
What on earth are you talking about?
Tt Mm’s post #139-140 have three links in them. They must have triggered the auto-moderation.
Cupping is way more ancient than cups! The paleolithics used octopi. I know this from cave-drawings.
So is the necrosis thing similar to bed sores when people do not change position? A unit in the old hospital used to have a poster showing how bed sores progress, and how bad they can be. Maybe I am off in that thought, though.
@112 I guess the founding doctor of where I work would sometimes give kids prescriptions for candy. He would not tell the kid they were getting candy he would just say they needed a prescription, so the kid would be surprised when the pharmacist handed it to them.
@Sarah guess the founding doctor of where I work would sometimes give kids prescriptions for candy.
The doctor traded pills for candy! If it was Oxycontin or Ritalin then it was a good trade, but it depends on what type of candy was involved as well.
I was never very fond of Skittles and would certainly trade those for some Tylenol-3 (with codeine). But there is no way I would trade M&M’s (with almonds!) for a proton-pump inhibitor.
“I suggest that we all remember that there are things that work well for others that do not work well for ourselves.”
This is an alt med rallying cry for many quack treatments.
As long as there are testimonials from _somebody_ that “it worked for me!”, that’s proof enough. If it didn’t work for _you_, then you did it wrong, ruined your body with main$tream medicine, or just need to go out and try a bunch of other alt med therapies until you find one that seems to work, run out of money or die of a preventable illness.
#152 ^^^^ this!
Thank you for that explanation. I did not know about how sharing three links in a post can create a delay.
The word “post” can be a noun or a verb.
Post as a noun = message or part of a fence
Post as a verb = putting something up for others to view
For more, please review dictionary . com and other sites.
As for the source of the article about cupping studies, I am did not have time to research deeply. If any of you have time to find out information about medical issues relevant to you – and any other topic – do enjoy that process.
GreenMedInfo is a newer source of information. I prefer looking at NIH and Johns Hopkins websites for basic medical information.
Please do not infer more than I wrote. My statement referred to more than medical treatments and physical therapies.
For example. sucrose and nitrites can make me dizzy and nauseous. So, I avoid most sausages and most forms of white sugar. Other people feel fine with these ingredients.
Also, some people prefer to be non-heterosexual. They do not tend to encourage everyone to try that method of relationships. But, some of them talk about their partners. Likewise, I shared my experiences with alternative medicine to offer another perspective.
I did not say anything like: “You should try this, ‘cuz it will definitely work for you!” Any given medicine or activity may not be effective for you. Can everyone handle the exercises and eating patterns to train for a marathon?
Sure this is just like claiming a completely ineffectual modality works and can’t provide evidence. Huh?
I drew a parallel comparison in areas that people are skeptical about to draw attention to the notion of judging with little experience or knowledge.
That’s where you have gone wrong. There is absolutely no evidence that cupping works for enhanced athletic performance, particularly the claims made by the cranks administering. You haven’t provided a single shred of evidence and thus is in no way comparable to your “non-heterosexual” attempted analogy. Sceptics are going to harshly judge such ridiculous claims. It’s preposterous to whinge about a foolish and potentially harmful modality “being judged”.
I shared my experience and a few relevant links. More people with personal anecdotes may exist. More studies may have been done. More may occur.
After over 20 years of reading online forums, this is only my third foray into public online commenting and sharing. I am surprised at the level of vitriol still online. I thought that the 1990’s were over.
This is a skeptic blog. If you support unscientific, implausible treatments with anecdotes, they will tell you you are wrong. A quote often stated: “The plural of anecdote is not data.”
Many regulars on this blog work in medicine or research, and find implausible medical treatment to be disagreeable and even dangerous. If you believe it is no better than placebo, then the providers are charging patients for bogus treatment.
@151 I don’t think any of the things you mentioned had been invented yet. He was doing his thing like 1890’s through the 1920’s. I’m guessing options were fewer then, and probably not as appealing.
Oh, thank fυcking G-d I went to the trouble of trying to figure what the fυck your figure of speech was supposed to have to do with human fυcking anatomy.
See above. Can you pick out the magic word?
YAY The “lifestyle choice” “issue” has received a proclamation! From a massage therapist who has patiently watched and waited for over 20 years to venture a comment on the intertubes.
[…] to result in weight reduction. However there are web sites on the market that blame Phelps for “glamourizing cupping quackery.” A good friend despatched us that hyperlink whereas in a Santa Monica physician’s ready room […]
[…] migraines as well as lead to weight loss. But there are websites out there that blame Phelps for “glamourizing cupping quackery.” A friend sent us that link while in a Santa Monica doctor’s waiting room before getting some more […]
I can find it at least plausible that it might be doing something to the underlying muscle tissue. When I’ve trained hard, fighting the tendency of muscles to tighten up is always a big issue, and stretching seems to be required. The few pictures I’ve seen of cupping, shows it has sucked up more than just skin, it must be putting the immediately adjacent muscle fibers under tensile stress as well -and probably much greater stress than could be achieved with ordinary stretching and/or massage. So I suspect that if properly researched and applied there might be something there.
Now I agree about the risk. Sport at high levels is a societal problem: a zero-sum game whereby the participants are trying to push their bodies as far beyond the range we evolved for as possible. Lots of things could go wrong. And figuring out what helps in that zero-sum game isn’t easy, placebo effects as well as natural variation make data gathering problematic.
In your zeal to be “condescending science dude”, you have actually missed some fairly big issues related to cupping and other recovery/pain management techniques.
To start with, pain in general is notoriously difficult to measure. Ask any Dr. or anesthesiologist, we know certain things make you feel better, we know people perceive pain differently but we don’t have a lot of “whys”. For a lot of recovery techniques like cupping, massage, scraping, heat/cold/contrast, compression, etc. there are just not many good tests out there to give us quantifiable data one way or another as to their efficacy. That does not mean they aren’t working however. Forget the 2,000 years of chinese mumbo jumbo and focus on the fact that a huge amount of elite athletes are using cupping, have for many years (this is not a new trend among athletes, just among American athletes) and have had pretty good results. Again, this goes back to the entire field of pain management which is just hard to quantize. I also have a serious issue with the characterization of cupping as potentially dangerous. Icing an injury carries the exact same if not greater risk of skin necrosis. Listen folks, I love science as much as the next guy and for certain things, things we can measure well, yes, you absolutely need good, replicable data but this article is a reflection of the author’s poor understanding of the field of athletic recovery in general.
The cupping industry is trying real hard to hide the fact that vaccum cleaners do the same thing!
Jesse: “… and focus on the fact that a huge amount of elite athletes are using cupping,”
An appeal to undeserved authority? Elite athletes are very good at practicing their sport, but not medical statistics.
OMG!!! Imagine how many hickies (and gold medals) you could achieve with this!
Have you ever tried cupping? How can you say it doesn’t work if you have never tried it? Why are so many people saying they have felt better after cupping if it doesnt work? What scientific proof do you have that it doesn’t work?
@Chelsey, people also swear that they feel better when they rub a “Buddha” statue’s belly. That doesn’t mean that it’s an effective medical treatment.
Protip: Actually reading the comments can help prevent making a fool of oneself.
“What scientific proof do you have that it doesn’t work?”
What scientific proof do you have that it does?
@Chelsey – there are all kinds of things I can say don’t work even though I’ve never tried them. There are many things I can say do work even though I’ve never tried them. I’ll bet you could think of examples if you tried for a couple of minutes.
If you want to argue that cupping works, you need to define what “works” means and show that it’s been tested successfully.
Chelsey, you might find this link helpful.
“Fallacious shifting of the burden of proof occurs if someone makes a claim that needs justification, then demands that the opponent justify the opposite of the claim. The opponent has no such burden until evidence is presented for the claim.”
Well, I’ve been known to Gish Gallop, albeit with facts being presented in rapid and varied succession. As that’s resulted in confusion, I’ve slowed my pace by a lot. :/
Isn’t cupping what Italian waiters do when they take your order?
[…] on his stack, he also drew attention in Rio for circular bruises on his shoulder resulting from a pseudoscientific medical treatment called cupping. Several ancient cultures practiced variants of cupping in order to reduce pain or heal injury. On […]
That society praises morons disgusts me. Sports are meant merely to keep brawny idiots occupied and off the streets; there is no reason to praise or enrich these cretins.
Not all athletes are morons or cretins. They span quite a range of intelligence up to genius.
@Mephistopheles O’Brien, having a *lot* of friends who are in the genius range, let’s suffice it to say, stupid things aren’t outside of their forte.
Such as a good friend, who was surfing on the roof of his buddy’s car, who then had to emergency stop to avoid running down a pair of pedestrians. Roof surfer didn’t survive.
Despite his IQ, which was quite high.
@Wzrd1 – I agree, being a genius does not prevent you from being an idiot about something.
Ahh. I know of a similar happenstance. The ‘surfer’ was severly messed up; The driver was the son of the chief of police — No punishment.
Table of Mongolian Olympic Medals.
[…] Thanks, Michael Phelps, for Glamorizing Cupping Quackery! (article on Science Blogs): http://goo.gl/JKGDbx […]
[…] This is interesting, because virtually every single physician practicing science-based medicine considers cupping to be pseudoscience. Is this a case of ideology trumping evidence? No. A closer look at the […]
[…] 拔罐是否真正有效？咱们来看看证据吧。最好的证据不是来自个人经验或单独的研究报告，而是来自整合多个研究报告的系统性综述。目前最新的综述基本上都显示拔罐疗法可能有潜在的正面疗效，尤其是针对疼痛。这有点奇怪了，因为几乎每一位以科学基础行医的医生都认为拔罐疗法是伪科学。这是一个意识形态盖过证据的案例吗？不。在细看所谓的”证据”基础后才看得出真正的故事。 […]
I been cupping for 10 years and have notice benefits from it BUT because it is blowing up prices are going up now… Which sucks.
A question to the author or anyone else: Wouldn’t cupping have at least some benefits if you were to apply it to pressure points and use it for trigger therapy to release the tight knots that form in muscles ??? At the moment I use my thumb to manually apply pressure on the areas that have knotted around my neck and Temporomandibular joint until the pressure releases and I purchased a cupping set yesterday to use in the same way. I’m looking for a reason as to why this may or may not work….
Well, l, for starters, pressure points are areas where an artery passes along bone and are pressed to cut down circulation in a bleeding person as a prompt form of first aid.
Knotted muscles are spasming muscles, a hot pack would do wonders, massage would do wonders, vacuum under a cup, not so much – no physiological pathway for that to do anything.
Julian: Have you ever seen Brazil? I think Terry Jones or Eric Idle wrote the script. I need to find a copy to own. I’d also recommend the History of Future Folk, and if you haven’t seen Childhood’s End or the Day the Earth Stood Still, you’re in for a treat. (Also, I’ve been listening to a lot of old podcasts, and I found a rebroadcast of R.U.R., the Czech play responsible for the word robot joining the English language.)
Oops. Abject apologies, all. I posted on the wrong thread.