AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - If you've been watching the 2016 Rio Olympics you may have noticed unusual large, red circles covering the backs and shoulders of many Olympians.
They are not bruises but are the aftermath of an ancient Chinese muscle therapy called "cupping."
During a session, a licensed therapist will place special cups on your skin and create suction through different methods.
For example, one method uses fire to remove oxygen which creates the suction.
"What the suction is doing is pulling the skin, it pulls all the muscle, the tissue underneath and it opens up pathways," said Heath Henderson, a neuro-muscular therapist. "The process gets blood to actually come back to that muscle to repair it. It can also open up nerve pathways so if they were in-stretched or in-pinched it opens those up."
Therapists leave the suction cups on the skin between 5 and 10 minutes, causing hickey marks on patients.
Patients can use cupping for pain, inflammation, blood flow or for a deep tissue massage.
The therapy can be used by anyone not just athletes. Henderson said he's helped patients as young as 3 and as old as 95.
"If you wake up in the morning and you have a crook in your neck, it can help release that so anybody that has any kind of issues can come in for cupping," acupuncturist Erin Sessions said.
After receiving cupping therapy your skin should be back to normal within a week to 10 days.
One thing both Sessions and Henderson agree on and want to stress is cupping should never be done at home or by someone who is not licensed.
"You need to be trained specifically. You need to know what you're doing with the cup because there are a lot of medical conditions that cannot receive cupping sessions," Henderson said.
Cupping is not for pregnant women, people with high blood pressure or heart conditions.
If you are interested in this method talk with your doctor or a licensed therapist.