Benefits of Cupping and Acupuncture For Athletes

Athletes are associated with health and fitness — but athletes know the unpleasant effects of frequently putting stress on the body through vigorous exercise. Athletes experiencing muscle soreness and pain should consider visiting an acupuncture clinic offering cupping therapy and acupuncture to help aid the muscles in healing. Let’s dive (any swimmers out there?) into the benefits of acupuncture and cupping for swimmers, runners, basketball players, and every other type of athlete:

What is Acupuncture?

You’re probably aware that acupuncture involves tiny little needles. But, how does acupuncture work to help athletes’ muscles heal? Acupuncture practices began in Ancient China nearly 3,000 years ago — making it a traditional and holistic Chinese medicine practice.

The small needles are placed on specific acupoints found on the body. The Chinese term 针灸 is used to describe the acupuncture process as it consists of utilizing needles to stimulate blood flow and energy flow by placing them on precise acupoints that allow qi (the life force) to connect the body and organs to work together in harmony.


For athletes, acupuncture specialists will discuss the demands of your sport with you to determine the best acupoints.

What are the Benefits of Acupuncture for Athletes?

Acupuncture significantly benefits athletes in many ways. This alternative Chinese medicine technique will help athletes with sore muscles recover quickly because it stimulates blood flow to the muscle. Stimulated blood flow supplies the muscle with fresh blood and oxygen before sending the muscle’s waste to the kidneys to completely remove the waste from the body. Acupuncture also releases natural endorphins that will help alleviate pain within the body.

Not only will an athlete’s muscles feel less sore after an acupuncture treatment, but studies show acupuncture is considered a wonderful solution to treat various types of sports injuries.

Acupuncture is commonly used for recovery purposes  — but athletes also use it to increase performance, range of motion, and flexibility. One of the other significant benefits of this treatment is that it can prevent injury. Doctors specializing in acupuncture can spot irritated muscles at risk for injury and place needles at those acupoints to avoid any potential harm.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

We understand it may sound taunting to have needles placed into your skin, but most patients say it doesn’t hurt. Based on your muscle soreness and sensitivity, you may feel slight discomfort in certain areas. Acupuncture treatments typically leave people feeling energized or relaxed. You have nothing to worry about — it’s a treatment meant to help you, not hurt you!

What is Cupping Therapy?

One of the other beneficial treatments that help athletes recover and perform better is cupping. So, what does cupping do? Cupping therapy is a traditional Chinese medicine that consists of placing special cups on specific points of the body that suction the skin. To sum it up: a cup is placed on the skin, suctions the skin, and then the skin is held in that suction as muscles and connective tissue decompress. In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping is known to reinvigorate the circulation of blood and qi in the area of the body being treated.

Benefits of Cupping Therapy

There are many benefits of cupping for athletes — like enhanced circulation, pain management, and reduced inflammation. Time Magazine reports that  Micheal Phelps, the most successful and most decorated Olympian of all time with 28 medals, has used cupping therapy since his strength and training coach introduced him to the treatment in 2014. When the media noticed that Phelps had circle-shaped bruises on his back, he expressed that he uses cupping to prepare for competitions. He said, “I’ve done cupping for a while before meets. But I haven’t had a bruise like this for a while. I asked for a little help yesterday because I was a little sore, and I was training hard.”

Other U.S. Olympic swimmers, like silver-medal winner Chase Kalisz and bronze medalist Dana Vollmer, regularly use cupping therapy before and after swim meets to treat their muscles.

Cupping therapy is not just for Olympic athletes — but it’s useful to know the types of therapies the best athletes in the world use to treat their muscles. Every kind of athlete will notice the benefits of cupping therapy. Here are some of the reasons athletes rely on cupping to help them train:

  • Acts as a deep tissue massage
  • Relieves muscle tension
  • Reduces pain
  • Promotes cell repair

Is Cupping Painful?

You may think that the treatment is painful when looking at someone’s bruises after a cupping treatment — but it’s not! The bruises form because new blood is brought to the surface to allow qi to flow through the body, but being cupped doesn’t hurt. The suction feeling is small, short-lived, and slightly uncomfortable at most. It’s worth noting your bruises may be somewhat sore and cause some discomfort as they begin to heal.

Professionals will be able to examine the color of the bruising to understand more about your muscles and how to better treat your body.

How Often Should Cupping and Acupuncture Be Done for Athletes?

Athletes have a busy schedule consisting of a lot of physical activity that puts a strain on the muscles, so receiving cupping and acupuncture treatments on a regular basis (approximately 2-3 times a week) is recommended. Cupping and acupuncture treatments are often done within the same visit because cupping provides more immediate results, while the benefits from acupuncture are usually noticeable after a couple of days.

Acupuncture and Cupping in Central Florida

If you’re an athlete looking to begin experiencing the benefits of cupping and acupuncture therapies in Central Florida, please don’t hesitate to contact us to learn how we can help you. Your body will thank you for taking the time to allow the muscles to recuperate — and your coach will thank you for consistently performing at your best!