Why purple marks on Olympic athletes are exciting local massage therapists

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) – With all eyes on Olympic athletes in Rio, many viewers can’t stop talking about marks on their bodies.

“I did wonder when I saw it on Michael Phelps, and wondered what that was,” Carmel resident, Kristina Michael said.

“If it works, and you like how it works, go for it, but it looks painful to me,” Westfield resident, Elizabeth Perez said. “I wouldn’t do it.”

The athletes said they’re going through something called “cupping.” Indiana College of Sports and Medical massage Director Elizabeth Bradshaw has practiced it for two years.

“When I first started advertising it, the first thing were, oh my gosh, those are bruises,” Bradshaw said. “Oh my gosh those are hickeys. When in fact, that’s not it at all.”

Using plastic, and glass, therapists place bottles on bodies. Skin, and muscle gets pulled inside, which allows blood toxins to be lifted to the surface.

“10 minutes of cupping is the same as the half hour to 45 minute massage,” Bradshaw said.

To find out what it’s like, 24-Hour News 8 gave it a try.  The sensation spread head to toes.

Just like the tools aren’t the same, the marks aren’t either. Even though Michael Phelps has those dark purple spots, the end result can look different.

“Everyone is different. It depends on their diet. It depends on their lifestyle. How active they are outside of their work and home life,” Bradshaw said.

The marks can last for days, but Bradshaw said so can the results, which is why she thinks the world’s best are using it.

Cupping isn’t new. The form of therapy has been practice for thousands of years.

If you’re wondering how much it costs, Bradshaw said an hour session is $100.

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