What is the Real Reason Olympic Swimmers use Cupping?

In this video, Attorney Ben Schwartz interviews Physical Therapist George Edelman and asks, What is the Real Reason Olympic Swimmers use Cupping?

What is the Real Reason Olympic Swimmers use Cupping?

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT: Hi, I’m attorney Ben Schwartz and today we’ve got a little special video for you. We are going to talk about cupping. Now, if you have watched the Olympics; you’ve watched the Olympic swimming races, you might have seen some purple or red spots all over the backs and shoulders of the Olympic swimmers and you may have wondered what that is and why they have that on them and so today what I’m going to do is, I’m going to talk with George Edelman. George is a physical therapist in Dover, Delaware and we also have Lauren, who is an aspiring physical therapist and who is brave enough to volunteer to be our test subject for cupping today.

George can you tell folks just very briefly what you do and what your relationship is with the Olympic swimming team? Yes, Ben, I’m a physical therapist & I’ve been practicing for 20 years and have been part of the medical staff for USA Swimming for 16 years. And USA Swimming is the National, the United States National Swimming Team? Is that correct? Right, USA Swimming the National governing body of competitive swimmers in the United States.

So, George, what is cupping?

Cupping is an Eastern Asian medicine technique that has been brought to our Western world and it is essentially using a vacuum to provide negative pressure to the myofascia. So when we see swimmers and they’re getting ready to do a swimming race and they’ve got red dots all over the back and the shoulders, that’s from cupping, but what does cupping do to produce those marks and what’s the purpose of doing it? So, competitive swimmers, in the course of a year they undergo 1-2million arm revolutions and in the course of a season, their shoulders will undergo a low level of inflammation and then inflammation can create tightness in the shoulder girdle and it’s not the joint that’s tight, but it’s the surrounding myofascia that becomes tight.

What is myofascia?

Myofascia is that thin white film that you see when you’re having a steak or a piece of chicken, its lining the muscle. So, that fascia, that myofascia, what does it do? It adheres to the underlying muscle tissue? Exactly, that myofascia can adhere to the muscle tissue, it can, restrictions can develop in the tissue and limit range of motion. So, by doing the cupping, what are you doing to help that myofascia become released? The cupping provides a negative pressure. It pulls the myofascia off the muscle and what’s important to point out is when we apply the cupping or than myofascial decompression, here in our modern world, were also applying active movements while the cups are applied to the individual. What does it do, I mean, how by having that negative pressure, by having the cups on and pulling up the myofascia away from the muscle and by doing the movements, like what actually is happening to improve the health or improve the performance of the swimmer? In this case, the athlete, it pulls the myofascia off the muscle and allows them to have fuller, freer range of motion. Is this something, so outside of the context of Olympic swimming races, is this something that might have some application, you know, for the general public and day-to-day life? Absolutely, we’re seeing amazing results with the cupping and in our clinic here in Dover, Delaware, we will see an array of patients from motor vehicle accident patients that may have injured their neck to post-surgical shoulder rotator cuff repair where they’ve been immobilized after surgery and what we’re seeing in both of these type of scenarios is that range of motion deficits have developed and physical therapy is applied to improve the range of motion and cupping has been a new technique that has enhanced our ability to address these range of motion deficits in a short amount of time. In other words, in a typical treatment session, we may be spending several weeks to improve the range of motion whereas in just five or ten minutes, the cupping will release the myofascia and restore normal motion.

Can you give me some examples of cases, real cases, without mentioning patient names of course, for real cases you’ve seen in the clinic where you use this technique and you’ve gotten some positive results?

Right, a really great example is a patient that was involved in a motor vehicle accident two years ago. She went through the standard course of care, sought chiropractic care, physical therapy, injections, and she continued to have a range of motion deficit in her neck, she couldn’t look over her shoulder. She sought our help, when we saw that the myofascia was limiting her range of motion, we applied the cups, did a ten-minute treatment and after the 10 minutes she was able to demonstrate full range of motion in her neck and she was able to look over her shoulder and after the treatment, she was in tears, because she spent two years seeking help or a solution.

Another great example might be somebody who has a rotator cuff repair and they are immobilized in a sling for four weeks and when they come out of that sling, really have a hard time getting that range of motion back in their limb and we’re finding that the cupping is a nice complement to the traditional treatments to restore the range of motion. Very good, alright well, can I get out of the way and have you demonstrate this on Lauren? Lauren’s our subject today and we’re going to take a look at her upper thoracic region and into the shoulder girdle. Typically, when we are applying the cup sits in a cluster that’s following an anatomical pattern and so we’re going to come in and work into the upper trapezius middle and lower trapezius and you’ll see that we’re raising the skin and this is the red marks that you’re seeing when you’re watching the Olympics this week, but it’s not the red marks that were trying to achieve, that’s just a secondary development. it’s really the myofascial mobility and restoring shoulder mobility in Laurens case, or cervical mobility with this technique. Typically, we apply these cups for about a five-minute period and while they’re on we will have the patient move through a certain series of motions to enhance the range of motion, re-educate the tissue and the central nervous system. You can see the cups adhered very well and now I’m going to Lauren do a series of movements. So the first one Lauren, I just want you to actively retract your scapula, so you keep your arm here, just bring your shoulder and sometimes cups can release, we have one that contours the body; here we go let’s try it again. So you’re just going to retract back Lauren and now go forward, there we go and now you’re going to retract, good work, come a bit forward, and in the course of five or ten minutes we’ll go through a series of movements. Here’s another example, we may have Lauren just reach your shoulder forward she can probably feel the tightness. Can you feel that tightness Lauren? Oh Yeah. Other examples, I may have her hold the arm right there she’s just going to resist me and after a series of those movements and resisted motions, we will release the cups and if they’re on there long enough they’re going to resemble the marks you’re seeing on TV with the Olympic athletes.

George I want to ask you a question. When I look this up on the internet, I read an article that talked about the benefit, the major benefit of cupping, is that increases blood flow and what you’re saying is really, the major benefit of cupping, is that it pulls the muscle away from the fascia, or the fascia away from the muscle (right) and when you’re running through those movements, you’re helping the muscle break-up the adhesion between the muscle and the fascia, is that correct? Correct, it’s also re-educating the central nervous system to reset motor patterns. In your opinion is the major benefit separating the muscle from the fascia and breaking up the adhesion restricting range of motion, or is the major benefit bringing blood flow to help heal the soft tissue complexes I mean in your opinion what is the big idea behind this? Yeah, the idea is that we’ve taken Eastern medicine concepts, where they may have been looking for blood flow, but we’re using it as a negative pressure technique to separate the myofascia from the muscle to restore range of motion and what’s different is were applying the cups and then employing active movements.

Ok well, I want to take a moment and say thank you George, thank you Lauren for demonstrating this technique it’s definitely something that you don’t see every day, something new, something I think that people who are watching this video on the internet may find very interesting. it is something that’s very timely as well as we have the Olympic games going on and the Olympic athletes, or you know at least the swimmers, are walking around with big purple dots all over their bodies, so thank you, very much appreciated the time. Lauren, thank you very much for taking the time and again I’m attorney Ben Schwartz, I’m here with George Edelman and Lauren, who is an aspiring physical therapist as well. I hope you enjoyed this video, if so send us a comment or an email. My email address is ben.schwartz@schwartzandschwartz.com you can also find us on Facebook and leave us a comment or question there we are at facebook.com/schwartzandschwartz.

What is the Real Reason Olympic Swimmers use Cupping?

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