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What are those big red spots on Michael Phelps?

They were warned about the water quality, and now we’re seeing some swimmers, in particular 19-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps, covered in some weird angry-looking spots.

What is going on?

According to Fox Sports, its just the result of cupping therapy, a Chinese medicinal practice that dates back thousands of years.

"Back then, cups were made of glass and, inside them, a flammable material was set aflame. When it went out, the cup was placed on the subject's body creating a vacuum as it cooled. These days, there is a pump that mimics the process, leaving temporary bruises on the body."

So how does it work for athletes?

Swimming World reported that cupping used suction to tug on the tightest muscles.

"The vacuum lifts the skin off the muscle or bone, allowing the blood vessels to expand and more blood to flow to the targeted area. Increased blood flow is believed to help the body recover faster."

The process can take up to 10 minutes and users have said it feels like pinching followed by immediate pain relief (lasting a few hours) when the cups are removed.

Now you know. 

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