Tokyo Olympics: Why some athletes have dark patches on their bodies

Some sportspersons at the Tokyo Olympics this year were spotted with dark patches on their body. Team Australia’s swimmer Kyle Chalmers even shared some pictures on Instagram that showed the dots on his body. They were also spotted on Japanese swimmer Akira Namba’s back.

In 2016, similar dark circles were reportedly seen on Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelp’s back.

These marks are the result of an ancient therapy known as cupping. This therapy, thought to have roots in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures, involves the application of heated cups to create local suction on the skin. According to an article by Independent, cupping has been used in traditional Iranian medicine throughout history. It has also been used in China for decades.

It is of two types — dry and wet. In both cases, the therapist puts a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs or paper in a cup and sets it on fire, according to Once the fire goes out, the cup is then put upside down on the skin just for a few minutes. A modern version, however, uses a rubber pump instead of fire to create a vacuum in the cup. After this, an antibiotic ointment and bandage are used to prevent infection. One is expected to regain normal skin within 10 days.

Cupping is known to have many benefits. Research has shown that this therapy can help with pain management, herpes zoster (reactivation of chickenpox virus in the body) and acne. According to National Health Portal of India, cupping mobilises blood flow to promote healing or cure diseases. It lists the following health issues where cupping can be used:

*To clean the skin from waste matters
*To stop excessive menses and epistaxis
*To correct liver disorders
*To treat problems such as spleen disorders, malaria piles, inflammation of testes and uterus, scabies and boils

Earlier, Phelps told Sky Sports in a 2016 interview that he usually got the treatment on his shoulders. “That’s where I usually hurt the most [and] I’ve done it before meets, pretty much every meet I go to,” he was quoted as saying.

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