What Are All Those Red Circular Marks at the Rio Games 2016?

What are all those red circular marks at the Rio Games 2016?

By: Bradley Murison, PT

cupping1 What Are All Those Red Circular Marks at the Rio Games 2016?

By now, we have all seen numerous world class athletes with these unique markings during their events. But what are they, what do they do, and would they help you?

These reddish, purple, circular marks are from cupping therapy. Cupping therapy dates back 5,000 years, with evidence that ancient Egyptians used a form of cupping therapy 3500 years ago.1 There are two types of cupping: wet and dry.1 Wet cupping is a form of bloodletting and is done by physicians; whereas dry cupping is more readily practiced by physical therapists, massage therapists, and acupuncturists.1

Cupping therapy is based on ancient eastern medicine and is said to stimulate the flow of Chi, (energy).1 Cupping is thought to: increase local circulation, improve lymphatic flow, release scar tissue adhesion, relax muscle, and release trigger points.1

Cupping therapy traditionally has been a static treatment. New ideas have been integrated to start adding active movement with the traditional cupping therapy. Dr. Bahram Jam, PT developed Tissue Distraction Release with Movement.1 This is the theory that we abide by at Body Gears Physical Therapy. Physical therapists at Body Gears incorporate Functional Movements with the use of suction cups. This allows us to further mobilize scar tissue, soft tissue, and neurovascular structures while performing the movements that you have dysfunction with or pain. TDR-WM is a technique that aids “the release of the interfaces between the soft tissues such as skin, fascia, neural tissues, muscles, ligaments and tendons.”1

Research on the effectiveness of cupping therapy has found significant changes. A single blind study of 60 clients with chronic neck and shoulder pain showed significant physiological effects from one treatment of cupping therapy.1 For clients receiving cupping therapy, they had a skin surface temperature increase from 30.6°C to 32.7°C [compared to control group 30.7°C to 30.6°C]; neck disability index scores dropped from 9.7 to 3.6 [compared to control group 9.7 to 9.5]; which are both statistically significant changes.

So if you are having acute or chronic pain that is limiting your gross mobility and functioning, call Body Gears Physical Therapy to schedule a free injury screen and see if cupping therapy would be a beneficial treatment technique for your condition!

cupping2 234x300 What Are All Those Red Circular Marks at the Rio Games 2016?


  1. Tissue Distraction Release with Movement (TDR-WM): A Novel Method of Soft-tissue Release Written by: Dr. Bahram Jam, PT Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute (APTEI), Thornhill, ON, Canada May 27, 2016
  2. Lee-Mei Chi, Li-Mei Lin, Chien-Lin Chen, Shu-Fang Wang, Hui-Ling Lai, and Tai-Chu Peng, “The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial,”Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2016, Article ID 7358918, 7 pages, 2016. doi:10.1155/2016/7358918.