Many who have been following the world’s largest sporting showcase would have realised unusually large red dots on the body of the athletes.

Some athletes in Rio including the most decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps and gymnast Alex Naddour have been spotted with these large spots on their bodies at the Games.

Well, it is not the result of a skin infection but a therapeutic measure called ‘cupping.’

Cupping is an ancient Chinese treatment that involves heated cups which are placed on the skin. The procedure is also found in ancient Egyptian and other Middle Eastern cultures.

These athletes have resorted to cupping because the procedure is believed to enhance blood circulation, reduces pain and promote general physical relaxation.The heated cups can be made of a variety of materials including bamboo, earthenware or glass; according to online health website, WebMD. Although silicone is incredibly used nowadays.The rise of cupping, especially the publicity given to it by the athletes, is testament of a breakaway from conventional medicine and the rise of traditional or alternative methods of healing.

According to the British Cupping Society; cupping therapy can help in the treatment of disorders such as hypertension, arthritis, migraine, anaemia, acne, eczema and fertility disorders.However, its benefits are not widely accepted by health professionals. The claim by some supporters that cupping can cure some cancers has been heavily disputed especially by the American Cancer Society.

Other experts in oriental medicine say for full benefits, cupping should be accompanied by acupuncture and adopting a healthy living lifestyle.

How is cupping done?

It is a pretty simple process that should be done in about 20 minutes.1. The cups are positioned at the back of the athlete. 2. The skin is drawn upwards by creating a vacuum in the cups3. The procedure should take between 10 and 15 minutes4. Expect skin reddening and bruising5. The skin may need to be covered up for some days to prevent infections

6. The skin generally returns to its normal appearance after a week.

Michael Phelps has won three gold medals so far at the Rio Games to continue his run as the most successful modern Olympian, with 22 gold medals.