PEKIN — Over the summer the world saw marks on swimmer Michael Phelps during the Olympics in Rio that resembled bruises. However, as reported then, they were not bruises but rather sha marks left after cupping.

Doug Shields, owner of Tranquil Balances in Massage located at 302 Broadway Road, Pekin, said he wanted to get certified in cupping techniques after the Summer Olympics. Shields met his goal.

Although cupping has been getting more attention recently, it is not a new technique. Cupping promotes blood flow, better circulation and can help range of motion.

Shields said there are three styles used with the cupping technique. The first is with a pump that is made from either plastic, glass or silicone. The second looks like collapsible drinking cups made of silicone. The third is fire cups which Shields said is the “old-school Asian-style” that has a fishbowl shape.

During cupping a small area of skin is sucked up into the cup itself. Shields said they stay on anywhere from a couple of minutes to 20 depending on the client. The cups get moved around if they are on the body for longer than a few minutes though.

“It does not hurt,” Shields said. “As always the client has a final say if it is too much.”

The visible results appear to be circular bruises. These are sha marks. Shields explained that as a bruise heals it typically changes colors. Sha marks do not. The discoloration can last three to seven days, he said, but it always depends on the client.

“It stimulates lymphatic circulation creating a more efficient collection and transportation of toxic substances,” Shields said. “Between the skin level and fascia, muscle tissue, which is a cobweb-like network of fibers, is what we need to keep hydrated. If it isn’t it comes in the form of muscle stiffness and soreness.”

He said he used the cupping technique on a female body builder client of his and her range of motion improved drastically. It can also alleviate problems from sports injuries, digestive issues, headaches and irregular menstrual issues.

Dr. Michele Moul of Optimum Health Chiropractic & Acupuncture, Ltd. located at 1331 El Camino Drive, Pekin, has also found cupping a successful healing modality.

She learned this technique as part of acupuncture training. She was excited that additional training is available now as its own certificate. 

“It is new that so many people outside of acupuncture can be certified, she said. “We saw the attention it brought with Michael Phelps and because so many people were watching it has been brought to the forefront.”

Moul said in addition to increasing blood flow, cupping speeds up healing. 

“We could use cupping for neck, back or leg soreness or for respiratory issues,” said Moul. “Cupping doesn’t make the muscles sore like some people feel after a deep tissue massage.”